Ofcom opens 5G spectrum auction

Telecoms regulator said it can't give an approximate cost of the spectrum until the auction has started

Ofcom has launched the auction for mobile providers to bid for 5G spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz frequency bands, with the bidding expected to go on for a few weeks over a series of rounds.

40 MHz of spectrum will be up for grabs in the 2.3 GHz band, while 150 MHz will be available in the 3.4 GHz band.

Airspan Spectrum Holdings, EE, Hutchison 3G (Three), Telefonica UK (O2) and Vodafone will all bid in the auction so they can offer 5G services to customers in the near future. However, EE will only be able to bid for spectrum in the 3.4GHz band as it already holds the most spectrum in the 2.3GHz band.

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The 2.3GHz band is already being used by the network to provide mobile broadband services and as such, it will be ready to be used by other providers as soon as the auction ends. The 3.4GHz band isn't ready for use just yet it needs to be prepped and tested for 5G.

"Our job is to release these airwaves quickly and efficiently, and we want to see them in use as soon as possible," Philip Marnick, Ofcom's spectrum group director said. "We are glad the auction is now underway. 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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Ofcom added that the auction isn't just about making Ofcom more money, it's about providing the best service to end users. Therefore, it's unable to give an actual monetary value to the spectrum, but says it's reactive to demand from providers. It will reveal prices for 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz lots in the last round of each day the auction goes on for.

The auction will comprise two parts: the first will determine how much spectrum each company can acquire, while the second will distribute the parts to each winner.

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