Ofcom names six 5G spectrum bidders

All four UK mobile networks have been approved to claim for some of the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum

Ofcom has formally announced it'll be freeing up more spectrum for telecos to improve their existing mobile broadband services and support 5G services when they launch in the coming years. It has also revealed the six companies that will be allowed to bid for a slice of the spectrum.

EE, Hutchison 3G UK Limited (Three), Telefnica UK (O2), Vodafone, Airspan Spectrum Holdings and Connexin have all been approved to take part in the auction for new spectrum. They now have three days to confirm whether they want to take part in the auction.

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Ofcom has freed up 40MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band, which is already supported by existing mobile phones so could be used straight away, and 150MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 3.4GHz band, which currently isn't supported by hardware. However, this is likely to be the band used by most of Europe for 5G services.

Ofcom's rules state that any operator can only hold 255MHz of the 2.3GHz band and 340MHz in total of all bandwidth available and as BT-owned EE is already operating on the 2.3GHz band, it won't be able to bid on the new portion, but it can still battle for some of the 3.4GHz band. Vodafone also owns some of the 2.3GHz band, but only 176MHz, so it can apply for some of the spectrum available. This would leave the floor open to the other competitors who could vie for all of it if they wish.

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"We're pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible," Philip Marnick, Ofcom's spectrum group director said. "This will benefit today's mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G - allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology."

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