Ofcom to hold next 5G spectrum auction in Spring 2020

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Ofcom has confirmed plans for a further auction of 5G spectrum in the spring, releasing 200MHz worth of bandwidth for next-generation network services.

A combination of low-level and mid-level airwaves will be available for purchase, each providing different characteristics for operators’ 5G networks. The 700MHz band offers greater range and indoor propagation, while the 3.6-3.8GHz band have greater capacity but limited range.

Ofcom is inviting bids for 80MHz worth of 700MHz and 120MHz of 3.6-2.8GHz. Each operator is subject to a spectrum cap of 37 per cent of the immediately usable frequencies in the UK today.

Ofcom 5G spectrum

The auction will have 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.

The possession of contiguous spectrum is seen as a vital consideration for 5G as it allows operators to offer more reliable services and connections.

“We’re pressing ahead with plans to release vital airwaves to improve mobile services for customers,” declared Philip Marnick, Spectrum Group Director at Ofcom. “Together with mobile companies’ commitments to improve coverage, this will help more areas get better services and help the UK maintain its place as a leader in 5G.”

Ofcom has previously indicated it would impose coverage obligations on some lots of spectrum but it has withdrawn this requirement after operators agreed a £1 billion deal with the government for a Shared Rural Network.

The regulator believes this arrangement will allow for a greater expansion of coverage than formal obligations. It will however add “commitments” to spectrum licences to ensure operators fulfil their promises.

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.