Regulator Ofcom shored-up plans to sell mmWave spectrum, but revealed it will not hold an auction until a decision has been made by competition authorities on a proposed merger between Vodafone UK and 3 UK.
Ofcom stated it decided to delay timelines outlined in March to hold the auction for city licences in the 26GHz and 40GHz band for 5G and other mobile technologies in Q1 2024.
With the proposed merger between Vodafone UK and 3 UK announced in June, Ofcom does not expect a decision from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) until September 2024.
Therefore, Ofcom wants to “avoid the risk of an inefficient allocation of spectrum” and it now does not expect the award process to begin before Q3 2024.
When a decision on the merger is reached, Ofcom stated it will go ahead with a plan to auction 6GHz of frequencies in the two bands, awarding licences for 15-year terms.
In total, the spectrum will be targeted at 68 major towns and cities where Ofcom expects the highest volume of mmWave deployments.
Operators can also request more localised licences within those cities or other parts of the UK, using a shared access framework.
Ofcom expects mmWave spectrum to deliver significant benefits to people and businesses in the UK, while playing an important role in helping operators meet demand for data and to develop new services.