Hong Kong’s telecoms regulator announced plans to hold a spectrum auction in December, with 200MHz of airwaves in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands going on sale at a reserve price of HKD38 million ($4.9 million) per MHz.

The Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) said applications must be submitted by 16 November and spectrum usage fees will be determined in the auction.

OFCA will award spectrum in part through adminstrative assignment and partly a market-based approach (a so-called hybrid method), with 200MHz of spectrum due to be reassigned in each band. Under this approach, each of the four existing licensees (China Mobile Hong Kong, HKT, Hutchison Telephone and SmarTone) was offered right of first refusal (RFR) for the reassignment of 20MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz band.

“As all four incumbent spectrum assignees accepted the RFR offer, a total of 120MHz of spectrum, comprising 50MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz band and 70MHz in the 1800MHz band, will be available for bidding in the coming auction,” an OFCA representative said.

Spectrum in the 900MHz band will be divided into five 10MHz blocks, while the 1800MHz airwaves will be available in three 20MHz lots and one 10MHz block. A spectrum cap limits a company from acquiring more than 90MHz of spectrum in the overall auction, with a sub-cap of 20MHz in the 900MHz band.

The regulator has faced criticism for its 5G spectrum policy and the high price of new spectrum allocations. HKT was the most vocal about its displeasure with the speed OFCA is allocating new spectrum, particularly 5G airwaves.

OFCA in July kicked off public consultations on 5G spectrum allocations in the 26GHz and 28GHz bands, which are also known as mmWave frequencies.