The telecommunications regulator will auction off at least six licences for wireless broadband providers in January next year in a major expansion of the city's wireless capability. The Office of the Telecommunications Authority yesterday said it was releasing the 2.3 and 2.5 gigahertz radio bands for broadband wireless access services. That will enable operators to provide high-speed wireless internet access to a fixed-point broadband service or to upgrade an existing mobile broadband service. The government will provide 195 megahertz divided into 12 frequency bands for bidding. Each bidder may submit offers for a maximum of 30MHz. The total spectrum available for bidding is sufficient for the government to issue at least six new licences for 15 years. The auction will be conducted on an internet-based platform on January 12. The minimum usage fee is set at HK$25 million for every 5MHz of spectrum. Successful bidders will need to make a single upfront payment and offer services within five years to cover 50 per cent of the population, or 200 buildings. Ofta said the roll-out timetable should be sufficient for operators to deploy services with suitable wireless technology. Mobile operators previously worried that the broadband licences would be issued too early for the deployment of Long-Term Evolution technology - the best option for 3G operators to upgrade to faster wireless broadband service with download speeds of more than 100 megabits per second. LTE is expected to be a mainstream technology in 2011. Another option for broadband providers is WiMax technology, which has been launched in several markets, including the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. The WiMax 802.16e standard can support up to 70 megabits per second of download and upload speed. Ofta director-general Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen yesterday said: 'We are confident that the auction will attract investors.'