UK networks win as 4G spectrum auction ends, but final total falls short of early estimates

Vodafone Cellular TowerOfcom, the UK telecoms regulator, has completed its 4G spectrum auction process and raised £2.34 billion/$3.6 billion. The auction winners are Vodafone, Telefonica, Everything Everywhere, Hutchison 3G and Niche Spectrum Ventures, all of whom grabbed a slice of the available 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency. While networks celebrate their auction wins, and UK tech fans look forward to having a choice of 4G operators; there are others who aren’t all that pleased with the outcome of the auction, as although £2.34 billion sounds like plenty, it’s much less than the estimated £3.5 billion the auction was expected to raise.

Vodafone was the first to send out a press release trumpeting its win. The network says it has, “Secured the widest range of spectrum,” in Ofcom’s auction, spending £790 million on both the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies. While the release continues to talk about the benefits of 4G and the promise of 98 percent indoor coverage of the country by the end of 2015, its stops short of providing a switch-on date for its 4G service, saying only it’ll happen later in the year.

The press office at Telefonica-owned O2 wasn’t far behind Vodafone, and in its release it managed to be a little more precise with its 4G launch date, estimating it would occur sometime during the summer. Telefonica invested £550 million in two 10MHz blocks of the 800MHz spectrum, and confirmed it has already started the necessary 4G updates to its grid.

Everything Everywhere has claimed two 5MHz chunks of the 800MHz spectrum along with two 35MHz blocks of the 2.6GHz frequency, spending £588 million in the process. It makes a point of confirming its still the UK’s largest operator, as it controls 36 percent of the available spectrum. EE is the only network in the UK to have already launched a 4G service, although it has done so using its considerable reserves of the 1800MHz spectrum.

Hutchison 3G, which owns the Three UK network, hasn’t sent out a press release yet, and neither has Niche Spectrum Ventures (which is British Telecom in disguise). According to Ofcom, the pair spent £225 million and £186 million respectively. Three UK had 10MHz of the 800MHz spectrum set aside to ensure the small network wasn’t forced out of the market, so was never likely to purchase anything else, given it’s also receiving some 4G-capable 1800MHz spectrum from EE later this year. As for Niche Spectrum Ventures, it only took the 2.6GHz frequency, but won’t be using it for mobile purposes.

With the auction over, the next stage is known as Assignment, which decides where the newly acquired chunks of frequency will be located in the spectrum, and it will get underway soon.

Mobile

Verizon’s deal could get you a free iPhone XR — but there’s some fine print

Verizon launched a new deal for its smartphones aimed at encouraging customers to open a new line. If you're willing and you want two new phones, you could get a free Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone XR, or Pixel 3.
Mobile

Android vs. iOS: Which smartphone platform is the best?

If you’re trying to choose a new phone and you’re not sure about the merits and pitfalls of the leading smartphone operating systems, then come on in for a detailed breakdown as we pit Android vs. iOS in various categories.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Mobile

OpenTable points can now be used to whittle down cost of a hotel stay

Have some OpenTable Dining Points built up? Now those points can also be used to make your own hotel discounts. OpenTable is teaming up with Kayak to use points as discounts on participating hotels.
Mobile

Get $100 discount on the Razer Phone 2 for a limited time

The Razer Phone 2 is finally here, and it's got upgraded specs, that super-smooth 120Hz display, and an updated design. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the Razer Phone 2.
Deals

REI slashes prices on Suunto, Garmin, and Fitbit Versa smartwatches

Though fitness trackers and smartwatches can get pretty pricey, REI is offering some sweet discounts on top brands. Right now, you can get a new smartwatch from Fitbit, Suunto, and Garmin for up to 35 percent off its normal price.
Social Media

Twitter suffers privacy scare as bug reveals tweets of protected accounts

If you set your Twitter account to private and you have an Android device, you'd better check your settings now. Twitter says it's just fixed a four-year-old bug that flipped the privacy switch to make the account public.
Wearables

Check out the four cool Swatch watches you can use for mobile payments

Swatch has announced its Swatchpay technology is now available in Switzerland, enabling mobile payments from your Swatch watch. It works in a similar way to Apple Pay and Google Pay. Here's everything about it.
Mobile

How to jailbreak your iPhone on iOS 12: A beginner’s guide

The latest jailbreaking tools for iOS 12 make freeing your iOS device easier than ever. This guide will teach you how to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad, and explain what jailbreaking will do for you.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Home Theater

Dolby’s secret recording studio app may soon exit stealth mode

In secret testing since June, Dolby's stealth recording and social network app may soon be ready to make an appearance. Dolby 234 blends unique noise-canceling tech with Instagram-like audio filters.
Business

Google is buying mysterious smartwatch tech from The Fossil Group for $40 million

Google is about to step up its smartwatch game. The company has agreed to buy an unnamed smartwatch technology from The Fossil Group for a hefty $40 million. Considering the acquisition, it's clear Google is serious about smartwatches.
Mobile

Here’s how to take a screenshot on an iPad, step by step

The ability to capture screenshots may not be the iPad's most glamorous feature, but it's one of its most useful. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to take a screenshot on an iPad, whether it's an iPad Pro from 2018 or an older iPad model.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.