U.K. telecoms regulator Ofcom has published details for a forthcoming spectrum auction, early next year, that will see bidders shelling out for the equivalent of around three-quarters of the spectrum released in the last major U.K. spectrum sale (back in 2013).
The 2013 auction kicked off a mass rollout of 4G/LTE services in the U.K.. Ofcom is hoping this next swathe of spectrum releases — available as part of a program to free up Ministry of Defence owned airways for civilian use — will help support the development of 5G mobile services.
For that reason Ofcom says it’s not placing caps on the amount of spectrum bidders can buy to avoid blocking companies making bids for large blocks of adjacent spectrum which it says “have the potential to support very fast download speeds” and to support the development of the next-generation of mobile network tech, 5G.
A total of 190 MHz of high-capacity spectrum is being made available in two bands (2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz) via the auction. Ofcom has set a total reserve price of £70m for the spectrum. The 4G auction raised £2.3 billion, with bidders including fixed line incumbent BT, and major mobile carriers Vodafone, Telefonica/O2, and EE, as well as smaller mobile upstart Three.
However there has been substantial consolidation in the U.K.s mobile carrier landscape since then — with BT now owning EE and the owner of Three buying O2 from Telefonica. So there are fewer existing carriers to bid on the spectrum this time round.
Ofcom notes that “many” existing smartphones are already compatible with the 2.3 GHz spectrum band, which is already being used for 4G mobile services in 10 countries outside Europe, including China, India and Australia. While the 3.4 GHz band is currently being used for 4G wireless broadband in six countries, including the UK, Canada and Spain.