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March 21, 2018

Ofcom launches spectrum auction for 5G services

Five companies set to battle it out for a total of 190MHz of spectrum, including 150MHz of airwaves to facilitate future 5G services.

By April Slattery

Ofcom has launched its spectrum auction, to award wireless telegraphy licences for the new airwaves it will release for mobile broadband and future 5G services.

The auction will see five companies – Airspan Spectrum, EE, Hutchison 3G UK, Telefonica UK and Vodafone battle it out for the two frequency bands 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz.

A total of 190MHz of spectrum across the two bands will be on offer at the auction, made up of 40MHz in the 2.3GHz band and 150MHz in the 3.4GHz band.

According to the communications regulator, there will be two caps on the spectrum to be held by any one operator to avoid possible competition issues in the market.

The first cap ensures that EE, which holds the most spectrum as of now, will not be eligible to take part in the bidding for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band. The second cap is an overall limit on how much spectrum can be held by a single company after the auction. Through a series of rounds, the companies will bid for lots of spectrum.

Ofcom launches spectrum auction for 5G services

The auction will be carried out in multiple stages.

Ofcom revealed that the auction will have two stages with the principal stage to determine how much spectrum will be secured by each company. The assignment stage after this will determine where airwaves secured by each bidder are located within the radio spectrum.

The telecoms regulator expects the spectrum auctions to take place over a number of weeks. Furthermore, the length of the auction and also its total value will be based on the range of demand shown by the bidders.

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Ensuring the efficient use of the spectrum is Ofcom’s responsibility and priority, rather than maximising the financial value of the auction the regulator said.

“Our job is to release these airwaves quickly and efficiently, and we want to see them in use as soon as possible. We are glad the auction is now underway,” Ofcom spectrum group director Philip Marnick said. “This spectrum will help improve people’s experience of using mobile broadband today, and also help companies prepare for future 5G services.”

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While the 2.3GHz band can be used by mobile networks as and when it is released for boosting mobile broadband capacity of mobile users. The 3.4GHz band on the other hand cannot be used by today’s mobile devices, but has been earmarked for 5G services in the future, said Ofcom.

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