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Ofcom has officially launched its 4G auction – the largest ever sale of mobile spectrum in the UK.

Applications were welcomed during a six-hour window on Tuesday December 11th, with potential bidders also required to deliver an initial deposit of £100,000.

All submissions will be reviewed by Ofcom to check that the parties - most likely to be mobile broadband providers - are qualified to take part in the auction.

This will involve carrying out a range of checks, from establishing the information submitted is correct through to ensuring there is no overlap between applications.

Ofcom intends to announce the names of all successful applicants before the end of the year, or early in 2013 at the latest.

Bidding will then commence in January - a process which is likely to take place over a number of weeks.

Spectrum is being made available in two separate bands - 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.

The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the ‘digital dividend’ freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off, and is suited to delivering widespread mobile coverage.

And the higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is suited to delivering additional capacity in UK towns and cities with a high population density.

These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to the 333 MHz in use today.

They are being packaged into smaller lots, allowing multiple operators to acquire spectrum.

"This combination of low and high frequency spectrum creates the potential for 4G mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres," Ofcom stated.

"4G services should make it much quicker to surf the web on mobiles - speeds can be nearer to what is currently experienced with home broadband."

The media regulator said that for the typical user, 4G networks could be around five to seven times as fast as existing 3G networks.

Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards commented that the regulator has "fired the starting gun" on the 4G auction process.

"In the past year alone, mobile internet usage has doubled," he stated.

"The 4G auction will release crucial capacity to support future growth, helping to boost UK productivity, innovation and drive significant improvements to mobile broadband availability across the UK."

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