Mobile networks fork out £1.4bn for 5G spectrum

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Ofcom has published the results of the auction for 5G spectrum, a process that saw the UK's biggest mobile network operators spend almost £1.4 billion, far more than analysts had predicted.

EE, Three, Telefonica and Vodafone purchased 34 lots of spectrum that was made available across the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz parts of the spectrum, totalling 190MHz. 

Ofcom reckons that releasing this spectrum will increase the capacity of mobile networks by around a third. Only small cell specialist, Airspan, failed to secure spectrum in either band.

5G spectrum underpins the future of entire industries like driverless cars, smart homes, and much more besides.

The auction of 3G spectrum in 2000 brought in £22.5 billion (or £35.6 billion adjusted for inflation) while five winning bidders for the 4G spectrum paid £2.34 billion in 2013.

O2: the big beneficiary

Kester Mann of CCS Insight singled out O2 as being the big winner as it managed to secure all of the 2.3GHz airwaves available, which will allow the Telefonica-owned company to boost its 4G capacity. "As the most spectrum-constrained operator, this sale was more crucial to O2 than any of its rivals," Mann noted.

Ofcom's Philip Marnick added: "Releasing these airwaves will make it quicker and easier to get online on the move. It will also allow companies to prepare for 5G mobile, paving the way for a range of smart, connected devices."

The announcement of the results of the spectrum auction comes shortly after Ofcom legalised mobile repeaters to help boost mobile reception indoors in households across the UK.