Ofcom: 5G spectrum auction is complete – and here are the results

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has confirmed the completion of its milestone auction for 5G spectrum and is now ready to announce the results.

Ofcom ran a spectrum auction for two frequency bands – 2.3 GHz, and 3.4 GHz.

2.3 GHz is geared towards 4G use and will help to improve capacity as more devices and users congest networks. 3.4 GHz is the frequency most eyes are on, as it’s the primary band earmarked for 5G.

Philip Marnick, Spectrum Group Director at Ofcom, says:

“This is good news for everyone who uses their mobile phone to access the internet. As a nation, we’re using ever more mobile data on smartphones and mobile devices.

Releasing these airwaves will make it quicker and easier to get online on the move. It will also allow companies to prepare for 5G mobile, paving the way for a range of smart, connected devices.”

Without further ado, here are the full results:

  • Airspan Spectrum Holdings Limited has not won spectrum in either band.

  • EE Limited has won 40 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £302,592,000.

  • Hutchison 3G UK Limited has won 20 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £151,296,000.

  • Telefónica UK Limited has won all 40 MHz of 2.3 GHz spectrum available, at a cost of £205,896,000; and 40 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £317,720,000.

  • Vodafone Limited has won 50 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £378,240,000.

The combined total results in £1,355,744,000 going to HM Treasury.

Industry observers will have been waiting for the auction results of Three owner Hutchison 3G, and O2 owner Telefónica. Their UK subsidiaries attempted a merger to put them in a similar standing to the nation’s biggest players, EE and Vodafone, in terms of mobile subscribers and spectrum ownership.

O2 and Three’s deal was blocked by national and European courts due to concerns a reduction to just three major operators would reduce market competition and harm consumers.

Three made the biggest fuss ahead of the auction in a bold attempt to prevent EE and Vodafone gaining a greater advantage. The company launched the #MakeTheAirFair campaign and took Ofcom to court in a bid to impose stricter restrictions on the sale of 5G spectrum to its larger competitors.

As Telecoms reported last month, Three failed a final court appeal to delay the auction which allowed it to continue unhindered.

Matthew Howett, Founder & Principal Analyst at Assembly Research, comments:

"Despite Three having made the most noise about the rules of the auction, it was perhaps O2 that had the most to lose, being the operator that probably needed more spectrum the most. The outcome is a particularly good result for them.

Even though the auction raised a fraction of the amount of the 4G auction or even the 3G auction two decades ago, the prices paid are above expectation which shows how valuable these airwaves are to operators, particularly given the emerging hype around 5G.

However, an unsatisfactory outcome in this auction was never going to necessarily spell the end to any one operator's 5G future given that the technology will ultimately work across a number of spectrum bands, both new ones and ones already held by the mobile operators.”

Ofcom will now move on to the ‘assignment’ stage which is a short process allowing companies who have won spectrum in the principal stage to bid to determine where in the frequency bands their new spectrum will be located.

With the auction complete, a key milestone has been reached in the rollout of 5G technology.

What are your thoughts on the 5G auction results? Let us know in the comments.

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