In a widely-anticipated development, British telecom regulator Ofcom set forth details for a planned auction of spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands that will provide the foundation for future fourth-generation (4G) wireless services in the United Kingdom. Draft rules issued by Ofcom this week call for auctions during the first half of 2012 that, in terms of available bandwidth, would far surpass auctions of 3G licenses held ten years ago and thus rank as the largest sale of spectrum in U.K. history. (In terms of revenue, however, analysts predict that next year’s auction will net only ₤2 billion in stark contrast to the ₤22.5 billion raised in the 3G sale a decade ago.) Consisting of analog channels reclaimed from broadcasters that are transitioning to digital services, the 800 MHz band licenses, according to analysts, are expected to draw “huge interest” owing to their suitability for wireless broadband services that are based on the long-term evolution (LTE) standard. While also considered ideal for LTE, channels in the 2.6 GHz band are expected to be used for the improvement of existing 3G wireless technologies that include HSPA. Concluding that the British wireless market requires a minimum of four national wireless carriers to ensure effective competition, Ofcom has proposed various safeguards to guarantee each of these operators a sufficient amount of spectrum to build their 4G networks, while limiting the amount of spectrum that any one carrier may control. Ofcom has also proposed a coverage obligation, affecting one license in the 800 MHz band, which requires the auction winner to provide mobile broadband services that cover 95% of the British population by 2017. To promote “more uniformity of coverage for 4G services,” Ofcom is also seeking comment on proposals to require licensees to “cover a certain proportion of the population in particular areas.” A spokesman for 3, a rival against O2, Vodafone, and Everything Everywhere in the U.K. national wireless market, welcomed Ofcom’s move as “a clear and strong commitment from government . . . that will stimulate investment in the mobile Internet.”