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Phone networks apply today to take part in 4G auction

The UK's phone networks are submitting applications to be part of next year's 4G auction.

The UK's phone networks are crossing the 4s and dotting the Gs today as applications are submitted to be part of next year's 4G auction.

Phone networks that want a shot at 4G have to submit their applications to telecoms watchdog Ofcom by 4pm today to be among the bidders that will compete for 4G airwaves. Applications must be accompanied by an initial deposit of £100,000.

Once applications are submitted and the cheque clears, Ofcom will make sure the applicants are qualified to run a 4G network, as well as checking there's no overlap between applications. The line-up of successful applicants will be announced before the end of the year or early next year. Bidding starts in January 2013.

Ofcom is auctioning spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands. The higher frequency 2.6GHz band is more suited to towns and cities, while the lower frequency 800MHz airwaves travel further and will offer improved coverage to rural areas. The bands will be divided up so multiple networks can each buy a bit.

Controversially, the government has already factored the projected proceeds of the 4G auction into the UK's accounts in order to suggest the deficit is falling. The Treasury expects to raise £3.5bn from the auction. 

The first 4G network launched this year. EE, formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile, uses the 1,800MHz band to pipe the Internet into phones including the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, Nokia Lumia 920, iPhone 5 and the HTC One SV, announced earlier today. Because they're on a different frequency, many current 4G phones won't be able to switch to the new 4G networks -- the S3 can, for example, but the iPhone can't.

Which network do you think will make the best job of 4G? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.