The long-awaited 4G spectrum auction in the UK will get under way by the end of this year, according to the local regulatory body, Ofcom. Oft-delayed and extensively disputed in advance of even taking place, this auction is a major step toward bringing widespread LTE connectivity to the United Kingdom. Ofcom describes it as the biggest ever auction for mobile services spectrum in the country, noting that it'll add 250MHz to the currently used 333MHz of spectrum.

In recognition of the need for robust competition, Ofcom will reserve a portion of the available airwaves for a fourth wholesaler, believing that allowing the big three of Vodafone, Telefónica (O2), and Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) to dominate the 4G market would be counter to consumers' best interests. Further provisos will be attached to the chunks of spectrum on auction, such as the obligation attached to one of the 800MHz lots to use it to connect 98 percent of the British population to a mobile broadband service by 2017.

It sounds like a well thought-out plan, but Ofcom's prognostication is that bidding won't begin until "early 2013," to be followed by final determinations being made around mid-year and LTE services finally being offered to consumers in the latter part of the year. So the roadmap isn't really being accelerated, we just have a bit more clarity on the grim delay the UK faces in embracing 4G.

Update: As ZDNet points out, Ofcom has also set reserve prices for the blocks of spectrum, with a minimum of £225 million for each block of the 800MHz or 1800MHz spectrum and £15 million for standard power 2.6GHz. That means if all blocks are sold, the auction should take in roughly £1.6 billion at least.