UK regulator confirms bidders for upcoming 5G spectrum auction

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The U.K. telecommunications regulator Ofcom officially announced the confirmed operators due to take part in the upcoming 5G spectrum auction.

Ofcom said in December that BT Group’s EE unit, Hutchison 3G UK, Telefonica UK and Vodafone had qualified to take part in the spectrum auction.

Following the passing of the deadline to withdraw from the process, Ofcom said that these companies are now the confirmed bidders for the auction. Qualified applicants had until December 23 to withdraw from the process.

“We are keeping the timing of the start of bidding in the auction under careful review in light of the recent worsening of the coronavirus situation, and will publish an update on this in due course,” said Ofcom.

In August, Ofcom had announced plans to hold a 5G spectrum auction in January 2021.

Ofcom stated the auction would cover the sale of 80 megahertz in the 700 MHz band and 120 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz band.

In the spectrum auction, Ofcom will offer six lots of 2×5 megahertz in the 700 MHz band with a reserve price of £100 million ($136 million) per lot. The process will also include four lots of 5 megahertz of 700 MHz downlink-only spectrum, with a reserve price of £1 million per lot and 24 lots of 5 megahertz of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum, with a reserve price of £20 million per lot.

Ofcom has imposed a 37% cap on overall spectrum holdings. As a result, BT and EE will be allowed to obtain a maximum of 120 megahertz, while Three and Vodafone will be able to secure up to 185 megahertz and 190 megahertz respectively. Due to its current spectrum holdings, O2 will not be restricted by the cap, Ofcom said.

In 2019, UK telcos had obtained spectrum for the provision of 5G services. Vodafone won 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz band after paying £378 million. EE won 40 megahertz for which it paid £303 million. Three secured 20 megahertz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £151.3 million, while Telefónica-owned O2 picked up 40 megahertz for £318m.

These frequencies enabled the operators to launch 5G services in 2019, making the U.K. one of the most developed markets in Europe in terms of 5G deployments. The country’s four mobile operators have already launched 5G technologies in the U.K.’s main cities as well as in several small and medium-sized cities.

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