BIDDING HAS BEGUN in Ofcom's long-awaited spectrum auction as networks look to kickstart next-generation 5G services and improve existing 4G.
The auction will see the UK's big four operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - competing for spectrum, along with wireless backhaul provider Airspan Spectrum Holdings.
There were originally set to be six bidders, but Hull-based Connexin last week dropped out of the 4G/5G spectrum auction for as-yet-undisclosed reasons.
The auction will see Ofcom offer up 40Mhz of frequency in the 2.3GHz band that will be immediately available for 4G services, and 150MHz in the 3.5GHz band, which will be used for future 5G services.
Ofcom announced last month that it will impose a cap of 255MHz on the "immediately usable" 4G spectrum, which means that BT-owned EE will not be able to bid for any as it already owns 43 per cent of spectrum at present.
A cap of 340MHz has also been placed on the overall amount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction.
The auction was initially delayed after Three launched a legal challenge in the direction of Ofcom, calling for the regulator to impose a 30 per cent spectrum cap, slamming the watchdog's 37 per cent cap as "meaningless" and bad for competition.
BT-owned EE also launched legal action in an attempt to stop Ofcom from imposing the same cap on the 3.4GHz 5G band.
Both of these challenges were dismissed by the High Court in December, which Three appealed against. Last month, the Court of Appeals also slapped down this challenge.
According to Ofcom, now bidding has begun, the auction will run for a number of weeks.
"We're pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible," said Philip Marnick, Ofcom's spectrum group director, last month.
"This will benefit today's mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G, allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology." µ
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