UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom today revealed an update to its plans to release mobile airwaves in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum bands, kicking-off a consultation with potential bidders on the best way to proceed with the upcoming auction.
In a statement, it said the spectrum auction will be used “to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband services”, adding that it may be suitable for boosting capacity.
As part of the consultation process, Ofcom invited bidders to provide feedback on plans to award most of the newly available spectrum later this year or in early 2016, with the option of holding back remaining available frequencies for a later date.
Ofcom noted that new consultation was required given the changing nature of the UK mobile market due to pending consolidation. BT plans to bolster its position in the UK mobile market by acquiring EE and Hutchison Whampoa/3 UK is set to acquire O2 from Telefonica.
Should the latter merger go through, it will reduce the UK market from four major operators to three.
“It is not Ofcom’s role to decide whether these mergers should go ahead. This rests with the relevant competition authorities. However, Ofcom has a duty to secure the optimum use of spectrum,” Ofcom said.
The regulator added it would release licences in both bands for an indefinite period, with an initial term of 20 years. There will however be no coverage obligations placed on the spectrum, as the frequencies are “best suited for high capacity and faster speeds, rather than achieving wide geographical coverage”.