The UK’s radio regulator Ofcom has today confirmed plans to auction spectrum in the 700MHz band in January as well as the 3.8GHz band, increasing overall capacity by 18 percent
The sub-GHz band allows lower power links with longer range. With the lower latency of 5G protocols, this is well suited to applications in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) links as well as more coverage in rural areas.
“Demand for getting online on the move is soaring, and the pandemic has only increased the importance of mobile services to people and businesses. Releasing these airwaves promptly will bring a much-needed capacity boost, helping mobile customers get a better service,” said Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director.
“We are releasing 80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, following a four-year programme to clear the band of its existing uses for digital terrestrial TV and wireless microphones,” he said. “These airwaves are ideal for providing good-quality mobile coverage, both indoors and across very wide areas – including the countryside.”
This consists of six lots of 2×5 MHz (60 MHz in total) in the 700 MHz band with a reserve price of £100m per lot. There is also four lots of 5 MHz (20 MHz in total) of 700 MHz downlink-only spectrum, with a reserve price of £1m per lot.
There will also be 24 blocks available in the 3.6 to 3.8GHz band currently used for fixed links and satellite services.
“We are releasing 120 MHz of spectrum in 3.6-3.8 GHz band. These important airwaves are part of the primary band for 5G and capable of carrying lots of data-hungry connections in concentrated areas,” he said. “All four of the biggest mobile operators have launched 5G in the last year and releasing these airwaves will help increase the capacity and quality of mobile data services.
“Some mobile operators had argued for the spectrum to be allocated through an administrative process, instead of an open auction, in light of the coronavirus. Having examined this suggestion, we do not believe it would meet our duty to secure optimal use of the UK’s spectrum. It is also important to make the spectrum available to mobile users without unnecessary delay,” he said.
The spectrum capacity will also be capped to prevent any one operator having more than 37 percent. This means BT/EE will be able to bid for 120 MHz, Hutchison 3G 185MHz and Vodafone 190 MHz. Due to its current spectrum holdings, O2 will not be restricted by the cap.
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