Ofcom set out its timeline for spectrum allocation and anticipated deployment of 5G, with the UK expected to see pre-commercial networks in 2018 ahead of a 2020 launch.

The regulator confirmed it was in the process of clearing the 700MHz band – previously used primarily by broadcasters and now earmarked for mobile data services – and would auction the spectrum in 2018/19. This will be awarded alongside coverage obligations for winning bidders. Commercial services in this band are expected to be launched by Q2 2020.

Spectrum in the 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz range was already cleared by public sector organisations and will be auctioned later in 2017. The regulator closed a consultation into the guidelines for the allocation at the end of January and is currently in the process of collating responses.

Ofcom confirmed the results of last year’s consultation into using the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz band for mobile services will be announced during the first half of this year. The regulator will also launch its consultation on proposals for the 26GHz band in H1 2017.

Spectrum allocation in the UK is something of a thorny issue for the regulator, with pressure group Make The Air Fair demanding a 30 per cent cap on the spectrum allowed to be owned by each provider. CK Hutchison-owned operator 3 UK and Telefonica subsidiary O2 have also been vocal opponents of the country’s current allocation split in recent weeks, and have seperately called on the regulator to impose limits on larger operators.