Many countries have already auctioned their LTE spectrum years ago and counties such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and Germany in Europe have LTE networks on air already, the earlier ones since 2009. But for reasons which are hard to understand when looking at things from this point of view, the UK keeps delaying their spectrum auctions to the end of 2012 according to this news piece on MocoNews and the Ofcom announcement on their page here. So even if the auction now takes place at the end of 2012 it will be well into 2013 before first networks open up even only in a few places.
And while the UK network operators are testing LTE with a couple of sites in a few places, there are well over 2000 base stations already deployed and operating in Germany, serving private customers and, perhaps even more important, companies who have so far been left behind. Also large cities already have life LTE coverage as well, off-loading traffic from UMTS networks.
Waiting until the end of 2012 with the auction, that is four years after the first networks have launched in Europe! Back in the 1980's the UK was on the forefront of telecommunication development and had one of the most flourishing telecoms landscapes in the world. What has remained of this is now completely lost with this move and I am baffled. Whatever the issues are one must wonder why those were overcome in other countries in Europe which have now passed the UK by almost half a decade? Is Ofcom trying to make everyone happy? I would argue that that's an impossible mission. Whatever they decide, someone will be unhappy and go to court. Another year more is unlikely to make a difference to that.
Yes, I know, the current spectrum allocation in the UK is different from those in other countries. But are they the same in any two countries? In the UK, only two network operators have been assigned 900 MHz spectrum, a lease that was just recently confirmed, extended and opened up for UMTS. In Germany, the setup is different. Here, the 900 MHz band is assigned to all four network operators, although the shares are of different size, giving some more flexibility than others. But don't think this has made the auctioning process any easier with quite a number of companies going to court before the auction to stop it for various reasons. In the end there is and will be no single setup for the auction that makes everyone happy and is perceived by everyone as fair.