Ofcom announces plans for next UK spectrum auction

The UK telecoms regulator has announced initial plans for the UK’s next spectrum auction for the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands. Ofcom is asking bidders to provide input for proposals for the auction, expected to take place in late 2015 or early 2016.

Ofcom said although the spectrum would be up for grabs to anyone interested, it is likely to attract mobile operators. According to the announcement, the bands in question would be especially suitable for use in providing high data capacity, for which there is ever growing demand for from mobile users.

The 2.3GHz band is already in use for 4G broadband in 10 countries outside of Europe, including China, India and Australia. Handsets such as Apple iPhone 5 and 6, HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy are compatible with the frequency. The 3.4GHz band is currently used for 4G wireless broadband in six countries, including Canada and Spain, as well as the UK where it is used by UK Broadband for its Relish mobile broadband service in central London.

“Today marks an important step in ensuring that the UK has sufficient spectrum to support our wireless economy,” Ofcom Spectrum Group Director Philip Marnick said.

“It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the communications sector, which is placing increased demands on how spectrum is used by all industries. One important way of meeting this demand is making new spectrum available and its use as flexible as possible.”

The spectrum planned for auction amounts to a total of 190MHz of frequency, approximately three-quarters of airwaves sold in the last auction in 2013. In order to promote competition, Ofcom has set a holding cap of 37% of any relevant spectrum per holder.

As previously reported, the 2.3GHz spectrum is being released by the Ministry of Defence as part of a wider initiative by the government to reassign public body spectrum to civil use.

Ofcom said it is proposing a reserve price of between £2.5 million to £5 million per lot for the 2.3GHz band, and £1 million per lot for the 3.4GHz spectrum. In total, the value of the reserve prices would amount to somewhere between £50 million and £70 million. The deadline for responses for the consultation is 5pm on 23 January 2015.

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