The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pushed back the start date for a planned auction of key mid-band spectrum in the 3.5GHz band by one month, citing business disruptions caused by the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

Applications for participation will now be due by 7 May rather than 9 April, with bidding set to begin 23 July. The sale was originally scheduled to begin on 25 June.

Officials deemed the delay necessary to “protect the health and safety of Commission staff and to allow parties additional time to prepare”.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai added in a statement it remains committed to moving ahead despite the setback, and looks forward to “beginning this important mid-band auction”.

The sale will be the first in the country to make mid-band spectrum available to operators for 5G, offering a total of 22,631 licences. Seven licences will be offered in each geographic zone.

Spectrum will be sold in 10MHz chunks, with bidders permitted to hold up to four licences in a given area.

It is set to be the first of at least two mid-band auctions held by the FCC in 2020, with a sale of C-Band (3.7GHz to 4.2GHz) spectrum scheduled for December.

Unlicensed airwaves in the 3.5GHz band, which is designated as shared spectrum in the US, were opened for commercial use in January.

The US isn’t the only country delaying spectrum sales due to Covid-19: French authorities earlier this month pushed back a 5G auction due to take place in April.