Canada began an auction of 3.5GHz spectrum for 5G services a little more than a year after the original sale was delayed by Covid-19 (coronavirus), offering 200MHz of spectrum under flexible use licences.

Spectrum is being made available by the government’s Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) department, with 5G mobile broadband and fixed wireless access expected to be two primary use cases.

Licensees will be required to deploy their spectrum within a reasonable time frame to discourage speculative bidding.

Some incumbent users are retaining their spectrum, meaning precise allocations will vary by service area.

In markets where enough spectrum is available, ISED plans to set aside 50MHz for smaller and rural operators.

The process is split between an allocation phase covering bids for generic licences, with specific frequencies then covered in an assignment stage.

In addition to Bell Canada, Telus and Rogers Communications, a further 20 companies have qualified to participate in the auction.

The three big-hitters have already launched non-standalone 5G services on their existing spectrum.