Mobile phone operators have begun bidding for 4G radio frequencies in order to provide the high-speed internet capabilities to their customers.
There are seven bidders involved in the online auction, which is being held by communications regulator Ofcom and expected to last a few weeks.
Some 28 lots are available in the 800MHz band that became available when analogue television was switched off. Industry figures have said that it could raise between £3 billion and £5 billion for the economy.
The auction has been delayed considerably since it was announced, originally being mooted for the beginning of last year. Ofcom explained to the BBC that setbacks were caused by legal issues.
"These started as early as 2008 when we had originally planned to auction the 2.6GHz band of spectrum. However, regardless of this, the spectrum that we are auctioning could never have been used for 4G until this year," Ofcom said.
The competition in the 4G airwaves is expected to bring down the cost of the service, with the sole provider EE already having put sale signs up and cuttings its prices before the auction is even finished.