Ofcom’s proposals on spectrum auctions

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Ofcom’s proposals on spectrum auctions

Ofcom has published various consultations on the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum auctions. The first sets out its revised proposals for awarding spectrum in the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz frequency bands. The second sets out the auction regulations for the bands. The closing date for both is 9 December 2019.

Ofcom plans to auction 200 MHz of spectrum in two bands:

  • 80 MHz in the 700 MHz band – currently used for digital terrestrial tv and by wireless microphones used in the entertainment industry. This should become available for mobile use by May/June 2020.
  • 120 MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band – currently being cleared of its fixed links and satellite uses and should become available for mobile use by June 2020 (though some constraints may remain until end of 2022).

According to Ofcom both bands are likely to be used for 5G. In December 2018, Ofcom proposed that up to two bidders would receive a discount on the cost of the spectrum in return for accepting obligations to improve mobile coverage. Since then, the four mobile networks have put forward voluntary binding commitments to improve mobile coverage by sharing infrastructure and rolling out a Shared Rural Network, fully endorsed by the Government. As a result of that, Ofcom has removed the coverage obligation and is now proposing to run the auction using a Simultaneous Multiple Round Ascending (SMRA) format (as used in 2018 auction).

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