Vodafone, O2 and Three win 4G, but auction falls £1.2bn short

O2, Vodafone and Three have all won slices of 4G spectrum, meaning networks other than EE can begin rolling out speedy data services this year.

This morning Ofcom confirmed that after more than 50 rounds of bidding, every major UK network has walked away from the now-concluded 4G auction with barrelfuls of bandwidth, including spectrum that was freed up in the TV digital switchover.

Vodafone was the biggest bidder, splashing out nearly £800m for a pair of 10MHz slices in the 800MHz band, as well as other bits of bandwidth that will enable it to offer faster mobile data to customers. BT was the lowest bidder, but managed to nab some bandwidth.

Although EE is already running a 4G network using 1,800MHz bandwidth it already owned, the operator -- which owns Orange and T-Mobile -- paid just shy of £600m to pick up even more spectrum.

It's hoped that more networks offering 4G will cause a price war that results in cheaper tariffs for phone buyers. Three has fired the first shot already, promising that it will roll its 4G network into existing coverage, without raising prices.

Meagre cash for Britain

Ofcom boss Ed Richards called the auction's result a "positive outcome for competition in the UK", but the amount of cash generated by bidding networks was substantially lower than expected, which is bad news for the UK.

The total cash generated was £2.34bn. That's nothing to sneeze at, but is well short of the £3.5bn the auction was expected to raise. Moreover, Chancellor George Osborne had already factored the expected sum into the nation's budget this year, making it appear that the UK's deficit would fall in 2013. That leaves the treasury £1.2bn short of its expected target. Take it away, Picard.

[Source: CNET]

Three won't charge extra for 4G, unlike EE

Three won't charge extra for 4G when it launches later this year. Unlike the pricey EE, the company promises there won't be separate 3G and 4G price plans -- which means you could get 4G for as little as £7 per month, if it doesn't change its current deals.

Three's 4G service will launch in the second half of this year, using the 1,800MHz airwaves it's buying from EE. You'll need a phone with LTE gubbins built-in to benefit from the faster mobile Internet connection, but once you've got the right phone there's no extra cost.

When 4G launches in or after the summer, existing customers won't need to change price plans or SIM cards. If you own an iPhone 5Nokia Lumia 920 or Sony Xperia Z you won't even have to change phones. The latest Apple iPad mini and iPad with retina display tablets are also ready for 4G.

Soon the choice will be even wider with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE andBlackBerry Z10 arriving on Three imminently.

Three vs EE

The first 4G phone network here in the UK is EE, the network formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile. EE has come under fire for its prices, or more specifically, the stingey data limitsincluded with each price plan: £36 for 500MB of data, anyone?

By contrast, Three's SIM-only deals start at a mere £6.90 per month for 500MB of data -- you do have to buy the phone yourself, but as a monthly fee that's a quarter of the cost of EE's cheapest 4G deal.

Opt for Three's One Plan and you can bag yourself unlimited all-you-can-eat data from £12.90 per month. That's a 12-month contract too, so you're not tied into a two-year deal like many of EE's plans.

What is Ultrafast? 

Three is adding 4G LTE to its Ultrafast network, which currently uses the DC-HSDPA standard. DC-HSDPA is a faster version of 3G -- think of it as 3.5G -- and allows compatible phones to connect to the Web faster than 3G, even when you can't get 4G.

DC-HSDPA currently reaches half the UK population in 50 towns and cities. It's planned to reach 80 per cent of the population by the end of March. Three hasn't yet revealed how wide its 4G coverage will be.

The other phone networks don't have access to the 1,800MHz spectrum and have to buy different airwaves in an auction currently being held by Ofcom. The telecoms watchdog expects the first rival 4G services to launch in May.

[Source: CNET]

MiFi goes white !

Now that geek is chic, rucksacks are set to overflow with tablets, laptops, e-readers and gaming gadgets. To keep them online all the time, Three’s award winning MiFi offers a portable Wi-Fi hotspot which lets up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices connect securely to the internet at once, without the fuss of cables and wires. Smaller than most phones, the MiFi can slip easily into a bag or pocket and be on hand to connect you to the internet at the touch of a button. 

The new MiFi hasn’t just had a winter white makeover, it also now features next generation HSPA+ mobile broadband technology, meaning that you can download videos, browse pictures, tweet and surf the web around 50%* faster than before. 

The MiFi screen displays key information like the amount of data used, speed of the connection and length of browsing time, as well as a new look dashboard for viewing SMS and changing settings. In addition, the Wi-Fi user name and password can be seen on screen for fast pairing with new gadgets.

Personally, I have a MiFi for using when I am out and about… I just kind of wish I had this one that would look cool alongside my Apple gear. You can check it out here.