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4G networks expected in May as Ofcom sets auction dates

The next wave of 4G services is expected to launch in May or June, and will raise at least £1.3bn.

Mark your calendars, phone fans: Ofcom has named the dates for the 4G auction. The next wave of 4G services is expected to launch in May or June, and will raise at least £1.3bn.

The telecoms watchdog has laid out the rules for the auction of airwaves to be used for super-fast mobile phone Web browsing, setting the reserve price at £1.3bn.

Prospective bidders apply to be involved on 11 December. O2, Vodafone and Three are the main networks expected to buy 4G airwaves for their next-generation LTE services, as Orange and T-Mobile have already launched their super-fast LTE network on the 1,800MHz under the name EE.

Bidding begins in the new year and could take "a number of weeks".

In February or March the bidders are informed what they've won and what the tab is. They then cough up and are granted licences.

In the run-up to the sale, there'll be mock auctions, presumably so the networks can practice not touching their hair and bidding by accident. Only kidding -- it all takes place online using specially-built software so there's unlikely to be any comic misunderstandings, which is a missed opportunity I feel.

The new services should launch next summer for EE's rivals, but EE's first LTE network hasn't been without controversy. Prices have proved unpopular, especially as data limits are also very tight.  

Which network do you think has the best chance of delivering the best 4G? Or has EE trumped everybody already? Is 4G even worth the bother? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.