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Ofcom launches UK spectrum auction for two frequencies

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The auction will begin on 12 March and be for blocks in the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz ranges.

The UK regulator, Ofcom, says the auction that starts tomorrow will increase the total amount of spectrum available for mobile technology in the UK by nearly a fifth.

The UK’s four mobile operators are to bid: EE (part of BT), Three UK, Telefonica/O2 UK and Vodafone.

Indoors and rural

The regulator is releasing 80MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band after a four-year programme to clear the band of its former uses for digital terrestrial TV and wireless microphones.

These airwaves are suited to providing mobile coverage, indoors and across very wide areas – including the countryside. The spectrum will be used to increase the capacity of mobile networks, and should improve their reliability.

Ofcom is also releasing 120MHz of spectrum in 3.6-3.8 GHz band, which are “part of the primary band for 5G and capable of carrying lots of data-hungry connections,” it says.

Two stages

The auction will have two bidding stages. There is one reserve price for each 700 MHz package of spectrum; and another for each 3.6-3.8 GHz lot.

The reserve price for each 700 MHz individual frequency lot is £1 million, and there are four blocks of 10 MHz.  The reserve for each 700 MHz paired frequency lot is £100 million and there are six lots of spectrum (each of 2x5 MHz).

The reserve price for each 3.6 GHz lot is £20 million and there are 24 lots of spectrum (each of 5MHz).

Bidders will bid for a number of lots in each band at the given price, which is set by Ofcom.

The first, principal stage ends when there are no new bids in a round.

At that point demand across all bidders in the auction will have matched the available supply, and winning bidders will know how much spectrum they have won.

Assignment

The second or assignment stage has one round and determines the precise frequencies of the airwaves won by each bidder.

In the assignment stage, winning bidders from the principal stage bid to locate the spectrum they have won at particular frequencies within the band.

Unlike in the principal stage, bidders in the assignment stage will pay the price set by the highest losing bidder.