Ofcom Plans Another 4G auction in the UK

Posted by at 4:58 am on November 7, 2014

OfcomUnited Kingdom telecommunications regulator Ofcom has announced it will be holding another auction for spectrum covering the country, this time spectrum currently being used by the Ministry of Defence. The second auction, set to take place at the end of 2015 or early 2016, will in theory work similar to last year’s successful 4G auction, and will provide winning carriers with even more capacity for their LTE networks.

The new bands being put up for auction are in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, and though anyone is free to bid on the auction, Ofcom believes it will really only get interest from mobile phone networks. Both bands are already usable with some cellular equipment, suggesting there may be little to stop carriers from using existing devices with the new spectrum. The 2.3 band is currently being used for 4G mobile broadband in ten countries outside of Europe, and is currently compatible with the Apple iPhone 5 and iPhone 6, HTC One M8, and a number of Samsung Galaxy devices, while the 3.4GHz band is used for 4G broadband in six countries, including the UK.

The proposals will offer a total of 190MHz of spectrum across the two bands, roughly three quarter the amount offered in last year’s auction. Ofcom expects the auction to be popular, so it is including a cap limiting mobile operator spectrum holdings to 37 percent, including the to-be-auctioned spectrum. Lots will be given a reserve price of between £1 million and £5 million ($1.6 million and $7.9 million), with the total reserved value being between £50 million and £70 million ($79 million and $111 million), though it is likely to rise far higher. Last year’s auction brought in £2.3 billion ($3.7 billion), while a 3G spectrum auction in 2000 earned £22.5 billion ($35.6 billion)

“Today marks an important step in ensuring that the UK has sufficient spectrum to support our wireless economy,” advised Ofcom Spectrum Group Director Philip Marnick. “It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the communications sector, which is placing increased demands on how spectrum is used by all industries. One important way of meeting this demand is making new spectrum available and in use as flexible as possible.”

Ofcom has opened itself to public comments over the auction, with the consultation period closing on January 23rd.

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