March auction for 5G spectrum sale in UK

Ofcom will start an auction for 5G spectrum in March.

The UK regulator had initially announced in August 2020 that it would start bidding in January, but Ofcom had paused the process and said that it “will continue to monitor developments” as the country continues to struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The auction will offer a total of 200-megahertz of spectrum made up of 80-megahertz of 700MHz and 120-megahertz of 3.6-3.8GHz. Ofcom said that this represents a 22% increase of available spectrum available in the UK for mobile use.

It is believed that the UK’s big four mobile operators – BT/EE, Hutchinson 3G UK, O2, and Vodafone – will all be participating in the auction. All four operators already offer 5G, but the regulator said that the auction will increase the capacity and quality of mobile services.

Ofcom has placed a 37% cap on overall spectrum holdings. This will set limits on the amount that the operators can acquire in the auction. BT can acquire 120 MHz, while Hutchinson can pick up 185MHz and Vodafone can buy up to 190 MHz. O2 meanwhile has such a small amount of 5G spectrum that it will not be impacted by the limit.

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