After a Two Month Delay, UK Completed the 5G Spectrum Auction

After a two-month extension, the UK telecom operator; Ofcom, has concluded its 5G spectrum auction. The spectrum auction was supposed to take place in January, but it was postponed due to another round of COVID-19. “The spectrum auction and eventual release are critical to the potential rollout of mobile networks and 5G.

“We urge Ofcom to avoid any more demands for delays, as the economy’s recovery from COVID-19 is based on resilient digital infrastructure,” a spokesperson for EE-owner BT said at the time. Fortunately, no further delays were considered appropriate, and the auction results were declared by Ofcom. A total of 200 MHz of spectrum in two bands was auctioned off.

In the 700 MHz Band, there are 80 MHz of spectrum available. This band is well-suited to covering vast areas, such as those found in rural areas.

In the 3.6-3.8 GHz band, there are 120 MHz of spectrum available. These airwaves are perfect for urban installations, as they can help improve mobile data efficiency in areas with a lot of connections.

“With bidding in the principal stage completed, we now move on to the next stage of the auction, where the operators will have the opportunity to negotiate the location of their spectrum holdings in the wider band,” Philip Marnick, Group Director of Spectrum at Ofcom, said.

This is a big step toward offering better mobile services to people, regardless of where they live, work, or travel. “These airwaves would further boost coverage for today’s mobile networks while also bolstering the United Kingdom’s role as a global pioneer in 5G.”

The auction was attended by all four major operators: EE, Three, O2, and Vodafone.

EE earned £280 million for 210 MHz of a paired frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz band, £4 million for 20 MHz of supplementary downlink spectrum in the 700 MHz band, and £168 million for 40 MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band.
At a cost of £280,000,000.00, Three won 210 MHz of a paired frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

“Winning the coveted 700 MHz spectrum was especially valuable to EE and Three,” said Kester Mann, Director of Consumer and Connectivity at CCS Insight. Low-band frequencies, which are best for achieving wide-area, rural, and in-building coverage, were lagging in both.”

O2 charged £280 million for 210 MHz of paired frequency range in the 700 MHz Band and £168 million for 40 MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band. “O2 would be delighted to scoop both low-band and mid-band spectrum with the smallest holding going into the auction. Its 33 percent rise in frequencies would be vital in serving its network’s more than 35 million customers,” says Mann.

Vodafone charged £176,400,000 for 40 MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band. “This auction will improve our 5G network capacity,” said Ahmed Essam, CEO of Vodafone UK. It means we’ll have the spectrum we need to accelerate the deployment of 5G to our consumers, bringing high-speed coverage and innovative product and service possibilities. “We were competitive in the 3.6 GHz band and avoided spending money on low-band spectrum, where our plan is to reform our considerable 900 MHz investments overtime to carry 5G traffic.”

The auction earned £1,356,400,000 for the HM Treasury in total. “The fast conclusion of the auction and the relatively small overall expenditure is good news for UK 5G,” Mann concludes. “The UK was one of the first countries to introduce 5G in 2019, but implementation has been delayed by the government’s ban on Huawei.”

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