Ofcom presses ahead with UK 5G spectrum auction

Young woman using mobile phone
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ofcom is pressing ahead with plans to auction more spectrum for 5G networks in January with the publication of the final regulations, application form and guidance for prospective bidders.

A total of 200MHz of spectrum is up for grabs, including 80MHz worth of long-range 700MHz frequencies freed up by Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), and 120MHz worth of mid-band 3.6-3.8GHz airwaves.

This amounts to an 18% increase in the amount of spectrum available to operators.

Ofcom 5G spectrum

The process had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but a timeframe and the rules for the process were finally confirmed by the Ofcom earlier this year.

The auction will comprise two stages. The principal stage will see participants bid for separate lots of spectrum and assignment stage will determine specific frequencies. Operators will be able to negotiate between themselves so that their new spectrum is adjacent to existing frequencies.

There had ben concerns that legal challenges could result in additional. O2 had opposed the two-stage process and wanted spectrum to be harmonised in contiguous blocks, while Vodafone wanted the auction to be abandoned in favour of an allocation process. This, the operator argued, would reduce the cost of licences and allow more money to be spent on network infrastructure.

However, the risk of any further complications appears to have been averted.

“We will now proceed with our preparations to hold the auction as soon as it is reasonably practicable to do so in light of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the regulator. “We will work with all interested bidders to ensure the auction can proceed in a secure and safe way. In light of the practical steps that we need to take in this regard, we are aiming for a formal start to the auction process in late November with a view to starting bidding in mid-January 2021.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.