Ofcom sets limits on how much spectrum networks can buy in upcoming auction

Ofcom has capped the maximum spectrum a single company can win, as it set new rules for the auction of mobile spectrum to safeguard competition, the communications regulator announced on Tuesday.

The new auction, which is expected to take place later this year, will limit the amount of spectrum companies such as BT and EE could win to 85MHz in the 3.4GHz band, restricting the companies’ overall share of mobile spectrum.

Vodafone would be able to gain a maximum of 160MHz of spectrum across the 2.3GHs and 3.4GHz bands under these restrictions.

The regulator, however, has not placed restrictions on any other bidder, based on current spectrum holdings.

Licences to use 190MHz of spectrum would be auctioned in two frequency bands, increasing airwaves available for mobile devices by almost a third.

Ofcom said 40MHz of spectrum would be auctioned in the 2.3GHz band - which is already supported by mobile device makers such as Apple, Samsung Electronics and HTC - and could be used immediately to provide extra capacity, leading to faster browsing and download speeds.

The remaining 150MHz of the spectrum would be auctioned in the 3.4GHz band, which is currently being used for 4G wireless broadband to fixed devices in countries such as UK, Canada and Spain.

Ofcom has set reserve prices of £10m per 10MHz lot of the 2.3GHz band, and £1m for a 5MHz block in the 3.4GHz band. These are unchanged, giving a total reserve price of £70m for the 190MHz of spectrum.

It is expected that auctions to buy chunks of the network to be used in upcoming 5G services will be held in the next few years.

Last week the government announced it is granting £16m to three British universities to build test networks and trial 5G mobile connections as part of plans to boost the UK’s digital economy. 

EE and Qualcomm also recently showed off an early implementation of a gigabit 4G network designed to bridge the gap in mobile speeds until 5G services are launched. 

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