[afp] Europe's first auction of "fourth generation" frequencies got underway in Germany on Monday, technology that promises to revolutionise what mobile phones are capable of.
The auction, which began in the western city of Mainz and is likely to last several weeks, may raise only a fraction of the 50 billion euros generated from the sale of third generation UMTS licenses in 2000.
But unlike UMTS, fourth generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks are expected to be up and running soon and experts are confident that the new technology will not disappoint.
"Demand is well ahead of supply," said Matthias Kurth, head of the German telecoms agency running the auction, with "severe competition" among operators Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2 and E-Plus, owned by Dutch operator KPN.
A large part of what is up for grabs is the so-called "digital dividend," a chunk of frequencies left unwanted by television companies following their switch from analogue to digital broadcasting.
The new technology will mean users will be able to view high-definition videos on mobile phones, and to transfer data at much higher speeds.
It may also pose competition to broadband and cable operators since computers will be able to use 4G networks to access the Internet.
German '4G' mobile phone frequencies go under hammer