Ofcom confirms plans for spectrum auction in January 2021

Ofcom confirms plans for spectrum auction in January 2021

The UK regulator has confirmed plans to auction important airwaves to help improve mobile broadband and support the rollout of 5G, announcing it will release more airwaves, with bidding set to start in January 2021.

The auction will increase the total amount of spectrum available for mobile in the UK by nearly a fifth (18%) – helping improve mobile services and give people better access to 5G.

Ofcom confirmed that the decision to proceed with an open auction — rather than the spectrum allocated through an administrative process — is the right way for Ofcom to meet its duty to ensure spectrum is allocated efficiently, for the benefit of consumers, as well as ensuring companies can compete fairly and that customers have a strong choice of mobile networks. It stated that “suitable airwaves are scarce, and auctions are the best way to achieve these aims when demand is greater than supply”.

The airwaves open for bidding

The auction will involve companies bidding for spectrum in two different frequency bands:

  • The 700 MHz band. 80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band will be released, following a four-year programme to clear the band of its existing uses for digital terrestrial TV and wireless microphones. These airwaves are ideal for providing good-quality mobile coverage, both indoors and across very wide areas – including the countryside. Releasing these airwaves will also boost the capacity of today’s mobile network.
  • The 3.6-3.8 GHz band. Ofcom will also release 120 MHz of spectrum in 3.6-3.8 GHz band. These airwaves are part of the primary band for 5G and capable of carrying lots of data-hungry connections in concentrated areas.

The rules for the how the auction will work can be accessed here, after further consultation on modelling and technical matters.

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