UK regulator Ofcom this morning published the official schedule and guidelines for the country’s upcoming auction of 4G spectrum, hailing it as the “largest ever sale of mobile airwaves in the UK.”

Reserve prices for the spectrum – in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands – will total £1.3 billion. The 800MHz band is likely to be the most sought after and carries the largest price tag – a 2×10 MHz chunk has a reserve of £250 million, plus coverage obligations.

Ofcom has set 11 December as the provisional date for the submission of applications by prospective bidders. Those that qualify will start bidding in January, a process that could take “a number of weeks.” Winners will be notified in February-March, paving the way for services using the new spectrum to launch as early as next May.

“The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers,” said Ofcom CEO Ed Richards.

Ofcom has already allowed the UK’s largest operator, EE, to launch 4G using its existing 1800MHz spectrum. The operator switched on services in 11 UK cities last month.

Rival operators such as Vodafone and O2 were angered by this controversial decision, prompting Ofcom to speed up the process for new 4G airwaves.

Ofcom’s full auction document can be viewed online.