Ofcom has announced the names of the seven operators that have been selected to bid for 4G spectrum.
The communications watchdog revealed that the companies selected to begin the auction process are Everything Everywhere, Telefónica (which owns O2), Vodafone, HKT (a subsidiary of PCCW) , Hutchison 3G (operator of the Three network), MLL Telecom, and Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group).
The seven companies will start the bidding process in January 2013, with the winners tasked with boosting the spectrum available to customers by 75 percent.
Bidders will be informed if they have been awarded contracts to deliver the high speed mobile broadband in February, before rolling out services in June.
The seven operators will join the auction for spectrum at 800 MHz range, which will be used for widespread coverage having been freed up by the switch-off of analogue TV signals, and 2.6 GHz, which will provide high speed connections, particularly for urban areas.
"The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. "New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections."
It is expected that the sale of spectrum will generate up to £3.5 billion, a figure which Chancellor George Osborne factored into his latest budget report. A reserve price of £1.3 billion has been set by Ofcom.
It was also announced this week that the Ministry of Defence will begin selling of parts of its spectrum below the 3.5 GHz range next year, with the possibility of raising up to another £1 billion.