Telecoms regulator Ofcom has published the timetable for auctioning radio spectrum to enable mobile network operators to launch 4G services.
4G offers user faster mobile data speeds than existing 3G services.
Existing networks O2 and Vodafone are expected to bid. Orange and T-Mobile owners EE have already launched 4G services on their existing spectrum and will sell some unused spectrum space to Three.
Ofcom has set a combined £1.3 billion reserve price for the spectrum.
The timetable for the auction is:
11 December: Prospective bidders submit their applications to Ofcom together with an initial deposit.
December: Applications are reviewed to determine who can go on to bid in the auction.
January: Bids will be placed online over secure internet connections, using software that has been developed specifically for the auction.
February/March: Bidders will be informed what they have won and its cost.
February/March: Licence fees are paid and licences granted.
May/June: New 4G services expected to go live.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Today marks an important shift from preparation to the delivery of the auction, which will see widespread 4G mobile services from a range of providers.
“The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers.”