Ofcom puts more 5G spectrum up for auction in the UK

Published: 16 March 2020 - 5 a.m.

The UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has confirmed the rules for its forthcoming 5G spectrum auction, which should provide operators with the extra spectrum needed to flesh out their fledgling 5G networks.

Ofcom will release 80MHz of low band spectrum in the 700MHz band, after completing a four year programme to clear the band. With its good propagation rates, low bank spectrum will allow operators to provide better coverage in tricky locations, such as indoors and throughout sparsely populated rural areas.

Ofcom will also release an additional 120MHz of mid band spectrum in the 3.6-3.8GHz bracket. This C-band spectrum will be much sort after by UK operators as it blends good coverage levels with higher download speed capabilities. All four of the UK’s mobile network operators have launched their initial 5G services using spectrum in this band and the release of more spectrum of this type will allow operators to significantly extend their coverage across the country.

“Demand for getting online, on the move is soaring, with mobile customers using nearly 40% more data year on year. So releasing these airwaves will bring a much-needed capacity boost - helping mobile customers get a better service,” said Philip Marnick, spectrum group director at Ofcom.

“We’re also releasing more airwaves to help cement the UK’s place as a world leader in 5G,” he added.

In a statement to the press, Ofcom said that it would be making the spectrum available in the following lots:

Six lots of 2x5 MHz (60 MHz in total) in the 700 MHz band with a reserve price of £100m per lot.

Four lots of 5 MHz (20 MHz in total) of 700 MHz downlink-only spectrum, with a reserve price of £1m per lot.

24 lots of 5 MHz (120 MHz in total) of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum, with a reserve price of £20m per lot. As Ofcom is not planning to include coverage obligations, the two spectrum lots that carried a proposed maximum discount each of between £300-400m will no longer apply.

Ofcom also stated that the 37 per cent cap on overall spectrum holdings that is in place in the UK would have the effect of restricting existing mobile companies to acquiring the following amounts:

BT/EE - 120 MHz

Three UK - 185 MHz;

Vodafone - 190 MHz

Due to its current spectrum holdings, O2 will not be restricted by the cap.

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