Ofcom has confirmed that the auction of 5G spectrum will start on March 12 following coronavirus-related delays.
It had been hoped the auction would take place in Spring 2020, but the pandemic saw this date pushed back to January 2021 before a further postponement due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in the UK.
EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have all launched commercial 5G services and are continuing their rollouts. However, the new airwaves will help improve coverage in rural areas and enhance capacity in busy urban locations where network density is critical.
All four companies have been confirmed bidders have all been confirmed as bidders and a total of 200MHz of spectrum is up for grabs. This includes 80MHz worth of long-range 700MHz frequencies freed up by Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), and 120MHz worth of mid-band 3.6-3.8GHz airwaves.
This amounts to an 18% increase in the amount of spectrum available to operators.
The auction will comprise 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.
O2 had opposed the two-stage process and wanted spectrum to be harmonised in contiguous blocks, while Vodafone wanted the auction to be abandoned in favour of an allocation process. This, the operator argued, would reduce the cost of licences and allow more money to be spent on network infrastructure.