UK 700 MHz, 3.6–3.8 GHz auction details updated

By Jonathan Nally
Tuesday, 04 August, 2020

UK 700 MHz, 3.6–3.8 GHz auction details updated

UK spectrum regulator Ofcom has published the conclusions of further consultations it undertook concerning the technical model used in its 5G spectrum auction rules statement. It has also released an update on the expected timing for the auction.

“Following concerns raised by one company about a model used to help inform our decisions around the release of spectrum in the 700 MHz and 3.6–3.8 GHz bands, we published more information and adjusted some of the results we included in our statement,” the regulator said in a statement released on 3 August.

“Having consulted further in this way, we have concluded that the revised results are consistent with our view that it is likely to be technically feasible for operators to support a wide range of 5G services with holdings of 5G ready spectrum which are smaller than 80 MHz, including 40 MHz.”

Ofcom added that these “airwaves are important for helping improve mobile services and support 5G — bringing benefits to mobile users and the wider economy. So we want to see the spectrum put to use as soon as possible.

“We have carried out extensive consultations on releasing these airwaves and remain committed to doing this through an auction. So we are continuing to adapt our processes so the auction can be run securely and safely, taking account of the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our priority will be both to ensure the safety and integrity of the process.”

The regulator aims to begin the formal auction process in November, “with a view to bidding starting in January 2021 — subject to any new developments, including any potential litigation or changes to working restrictions related to COVID-19”.

The auction will involve the release of 80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band and 120 MHz of spectrum in 3.6–3.8 GHz band. Specifically, the spectrum lots available to bidders will be:

  • Six lots of 2x5 MHz (60 MHz in total) in the 700 MHz band with a reserve price of £100m per lot.
  • Four lots of 5 MHz (20 MHz in total) of 700 MHz downlink-only spectrum, with a reserve price of £1m per lot.
  • 24 lots of 5 MHz (120 MHz in total) of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum, with a reserve price of £20m per lot.

Ofcom has imposed a 37% cap on overall spectrum holdings, which effectively restricts existing mobile companies to acquiring the following amounts:

  • BT/EE — 120 MHz BT/EE
  • H3G — 185 MHz
  • Vodafone — 190 MHz

O2 will not be restricted by the cap, as a consequence of its current spectrum holdings.

The auction will increase the total amount of spectrum available for mobile in the UK by 18%.

“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.

Image credit: ©

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