The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has confirmed that the bidding phase of its planned auction of spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.6GHz-3.8GHz bands will now not get underway until March 2021. Previously, the regulator had suggested that the principal stage of the auction would begin this month, but in issuing an update on the sale process timeline it noted: ‘Throughout our planning for the auction we have been closely monitoring the coronavirus situation. Following a pause in the auction process, we are now planning for the principal stage of the auction (the start of bidding) to begin in March 2021.’ Seemingly not ruling out further delays, however, Ofcom also confirmed it would ‘continue to monitor developments’ with regards to the pandemic and the impact it might have on the auction.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2020 Ofcom had initially set a January 2021 date for the sale of frequencies in the aforementioned bands. At that date the industry watchdog confirmed that six lots of 2×5MHz were to be offered in the 700MHz band, with a reserve price of GBP100 million (USD137 million) per lot. Additionally, it noted there would be four 5MHz lots of downlink-only spectrum with a reserve price of GBP1 million per lot. Meanwhile, Ofcom also noted that it planned to make available 120MHz of spectrum in the higher 3.6GHz-3.8GHz band, which would be offered in 24 lots of 5MHz (120MHz in total), with a reserve price of GBP20 million per lot. A 37% cap on overall spectrum holdings was also confirmed at that date. However, in November 2020 Ofcom noted that it would proceed with preparations to hold the auction only ‘as soon as it is reasonably practicable to do so in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’.