Ofcom finalises 5G Auction Rules for 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has finalised its rules for 2020’s upcoming auction of the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz radio spectrum bands, which are set to further boost the UK’s new 5G mobile network coverage and broadband speeds.

Ofcom will be releasing 80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, and 120 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band. The combination will see the total amount of airwaves available for UK mobile increase by 18 per cent.

This will be sold through a two stage auction. Firstly, the principle stage will see companies bidding for spectrum in separate lots, to determine how much each wins.

This will be followed by the assignment stage which will see 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum winners negotiate their placements within the band between themselves. This will provide operators with the opportunity to create more continuous blocks of 5G-ready spectrum.

There will be six lots of 2 x 5MHz (60 MHz in total) for auction in the 700 MHz band, at a reserve price of £100 million per lot. There will also be four lots of 5MHz (20 MHz total) of 700 MHz downlink-only spectrum at a £1 million per lot reserve price.

In the 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum, meanwhile, there will be 24 lots of 5MHz (120 MHz in total) auctioned at a reserve price of £20 million per lot.

There will be a 37 per cent limit on the overall spectrum one mobile operator can hold post-auction. This will see Vodafone limited to 190 MHz, 3 UK to 185 MHz and BT/EE to 120 MHz.

Ofcom had originally intended for there to be a legal coverage obligation for operators on the 700MHz band, but this has since been replaced by the Shared Rural Network initiative.

Ofcom Spectrum Group Director Philip Marnick said: “Demand for getting online, on the move is soaring, with mobile customers using nearly 40 per cent more data year on year. So releasing these airwaves will bring a much-needed capacity boost – helping mobile customers get a better service.”

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

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