UK 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz spectrum auction to happen in early 2016

Ofcom has confirmed plans to release new high capacity options to mobile broadband service providers in 2016 as it unlocks previously ring fenced Ministry of Defence spectrum.

It claims it will prioritise those bidders who can make the most efficient use of the spectrum and won’t block operators that create economies of scale by buying up large adjacent blocks of spectrum. For this reason, it says, there are no plans to stop a bidding war.

In early 2016 a total of 190 MHz of high-capacity spectrum will become available in two bands, 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz, which are suited carrying large amount of data. This will be the biggest advance in mobile broadband capacity since 2103 when it released three-quarters of the spectrum in the 4G auction, said Ofcom.

Ofcom has set reserve prices for £70 million for the spectrum as it publishes details of the auction process. There will no cap on bidding, as Ofcom says limits could prevent a bidder from buying large blocks of adjacent spectrum, as blocks create the potential for supporting very fast download speeds and pave the way for 5G.

Ofcom says auction is designed to be fair and transparent and proposes to auction the spectrum in lots of 10 MHz for the 2.3 GHz band and 5 MHz for the 3.4 GHz band.

Many existing mobile handsets from major manufacturers, including the Apple iPhone 6, HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy, are already compatible with the 2.3 GHz spectrum. The band is so far being used for high-speed 4G mobile broadband networks in ten countries outside Europe, including China, India and Australia.

The 3.4 GHz band is currently being used for 4G wireless broadband in six countries including the UK, Canada and Spain.

Spectrum fuels the UK’s wireless economy, said Ofcom Spectrum Group Director Philip Marnick. “This auction is an important step in ensuring that the UK has the wireless capability to deliver and support new technology,” said Marnick.

As demand for mobile data services surges, it’s not just more spectrum that’s needed but new technology to allocate it more efficiently and networks of small wireless cells to provide greater capacity over local areas. “Part of our plan to meet this demand is by making new spectrum available and allowing it to be used in a number of different ways,” said Marnick.

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