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New 4G Phone Operators Announced By Ofcom

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom has granted permits for more mobile phone firms to operate faster 4G networks.

The four new winners are Hutchison 3G, a division of BT called Niche Spectrum, Telefonica O2 and Vodafone.

Existing 4G operator Everything Everywhere was also given expanded bandwith.

The auction raised £2.34bn for the taxpayer but the Government had hoped for a total of £3.5bn.

Britain's last big mobile phone spectrum auction was in 2000 for 3G services and it raised £22.5bn.

In real terms, the 3G windfall would be worth more than £30bn today - more than 12 times the revenue raised on 4G.

Ofcom said the purpose of the auction was to "promote strong competition in the 4G mobile market".

It said in a statement: "This is expected to lead to faster mobile broadband speeds, lower prices, greater innovation, new investment and better coverage.

"Almost the whole UK population will be able to receive 4G mobile services by the end of 2017 at the latest."

New entrants in the sector, including Chinese-owned firms, failed in their bids.

The regulator said that was simply because their bids were too low.

Ofcom also revealed that it was "planning now to support the release of further spectrum for possible future '5G' mobile services".

It said that by 2030, demand for mobile data could be 80 times higher than it is in 2013.

Future development of 5G would be needed to meet this demand and avoid a feared "capacity crunch".

Ofcom added: "More mobile spectrum is needed over the long term, together with new technologies to make mobile broadband more efficient."

Initial 4G operator EE has already rolled out coverage to 28 towns and cities, to more than 46% of the population.

Demand for the new services has extended as penetration of smartphones has increased in recent years.

4G can supply data stream feeds typically five times faster than 3G.