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Ofcom 5G mobile spectrum auction begins

By Josh White

Date: Tuesday 20 Mar 2018

Ofcom 5G mobile spectrum auction begins

(ShareCast News) - The next generation of mobile services moved a step close on Tuesday, as Ofcom's auction to release more airwaves for mobile broadband and future 5G services began.
Five companies would take part in the auction, the regulator said, all bidding for spectrum available in two frequency bands.

The first band, 2.3 GHz, could be used by mobile companies as soon as it is released, to increase mobile broadband capacity for mobile users today.

Ofcom said the second band, 3.4 GHz, could be used by mobile devices available today, but was earmarked for so-called '5G', or fifth generation, mobile services.

That would be the next generation of mobile technology, which also had the potential to pave the way for innovative new services in transport, healthcare and many other industries, according to the regulator.

During the auction, companies would bid for 'lots' of spectrum over a series of rounds.

Spectrum auctions could take a number of weeks; with the length of the auction depending on the level of demand from bidders.

The total value of the auction would also be determined by the level of demand.

Ofcom said its duty was to manage the use of spectrum efficiently, rather than maximise the financial value of the auction.

"Our job is to release these airwaves quickly and efficiently, and we want to see them in use as soon as possible," said Ofcom's spectrum group director Philip Marnick.

"We are glad the auction is now underway.

"This spectrum will help improve people's experience of using mobile broadband today, and also help companies prepare for future 5G services."

The five companies approved to bid in the auction were Airspan Spectrum Holdings, EE, Hutchison 3G UK, Telefonica UK and FTSE 100 telecoms giant Vodafone.

EE is a subsidiary of FTSE 100 firm BT, while Hutchison 3G and Telefonica are local divisions of offshore telecoms firms, trading at Three and O2 respectively.

Airspan Spectrum, meanwhile, is a unit of Florida-based mobile technology company Airspan.

Ofcom said it would auction a total of 190 MHz of spectrum in the two bands - 40 MHz in the 2.3 GHz band, and 150 MHz in the 3.4 GHz band.

There were two caps on the spectrum any single operator could hold, to protect competition in the market.

The first meant that EE, which currently held the most spectrum, would not be able to bid for any spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band, while the second was an overall cap on how much a single company could hold after the auction.

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