Vodafone: Scrap UK 5G auctions and release spectrum now

Published: 7 April 2020 - 12:07 p.m.

Europe’s biggest telco, Vodafone, has written to the UK government requesting it to cancel the forthcoming 5G spectrum and instead asking to divvy up the spectrum between operators, releasing it now.

Vodafone claims that the additional spectrum would help operators in the UK to cope with the additional demand for capacity on its mobile networks during the Covid 19 pandemic.

A report in The Daily Telegraph said that senior representatives from Vodafone Group had written to the UK government asking for it to consider the option as soon as possible.

The forthcoming UK auction will put 80MHz of much needed spectrum in the 700MHz band and a further 120 MHz of 3.6GHz band spectrum up for auction, and is expected to generate around a billion pounds in revenues for the UK Exchequer. The new spectrum would boost UK telcos total spectrum holdings by nearly 20 per cent, allowing them to offer wider coverage and greater capacity on their networks.

It is not clear whether the UK’s other three mobile network operators (EE, O2 and Three) would be prepared to ditch the auction format and allow the government to distribute the spectrum as it sees fit. Three UK currently holds more 5G spectrum than any other UK operator, giving it a decided competitive advantage. It remains to be seen how keenly Three would fight to protect that competitive advantage.

The UK government and the country’s telecoms operator, Ofcom, have not yet publically responded to Vodafone’s request. The 5G auction remains tentatively scheduled to take place in spring 2020.

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