UK regulator Ofcom finalised rules for an upcoming auction of spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz bands, in an effort to boost the rollout of 5G networks and enhance mobile broadband in the country.
Ofcom announced it will release 80MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band, and 120MHz in the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz range, increasing the total amount of available mobile airwaves in the UK by 18 per cent.
The auction will involve two stages: a principal one which will see operators placing offers for airwaves separately to determine the amount of spectrum they get; and an assignment phase involving a round of bidding to decide on the specific frequencies which will be allocated.
Ofcom said it will let winners of 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz spectrum negotiate their placements within the band between themselves, to “give mobile operators the opportunity to create more continuous blocks of 5G-ready spectrum”.
The regulator stated it was looking to maintain strong competition in the market by imposing a 37 per cent cap on the overall spectrum available to any one company.
Spectrum Group Director at Ofcom Philip Marnick said the move would bring “a much-needed capacity boost”, as demand for data was continuously soaring, and argued the step would help “cement the UK’s place as a world leader in 5G”.
The authority’s initial plan from December 2018 was to impose binding coverage obligations, which would have forced up to two UK operators to increase coverage in rural areas. However, Ofcom decided to cancel this as the four major operators in the country reached an agreement earlier this month over a £1 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN) plan for sealing coverage gaps across the UK.