Ofcom details 2020 spectrum auction for more 5G airwaves

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has detailed plans for a 5G spectrum auction next year to support the rollout of the latest generation network.

Companies will bid for the finite airwaves across two separate frequency bands. 80 MHz of spectrum will be available in the 700 MHz band, while 120 MHz of spectrum will be up-for-grabs in the 3.6–3.8 GHz band.

All four of the UK's major operators have launched 5G in some capacity this year but in limited areas of selected cities and towns. The new airwaves will help to increase the range, speed, and reliability of the winning bidders' networks.

Ofcom's auction will be held in two stages:

  • Stage one is the "principle stage" whereby companies will first bid for airwaves in traditional “lots” to determine how much spectrum will be allocated to each.

  • Stage two will be the "assignment stage" which determines specific frequencies that will be allocated to each winning bidder.

During the assignment stage, companies can decide among themselves whether or not to move their allocations. This allows operators to join their existing spectrum with any new allocations.

The regulator still proposes to cap the spectrum allocation of any one company at 37 percent.

Ofcom is no longer proposing to include coverage obligations as part of its auction due to a deal reached on Friday by the major operators to build a shared rural network, supported by government funds, to help eliminate "not-spots" across the countryside.

Any opposition to Ofcom's auction proposals must be submitted by December 9th. The final plan will be published early next year prior to the auction in spring 2020.

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