British communications regulator Ofcom has announced the outcome of the principal stage of its auction to release more spectrum to improve mobile services and support 5G. Four companies have secured new frequencies, with the sale process raising a total of GBP1.356 billion (USD1.88 billion) for state coffers.
EE emerged as the biggest spender, securing 2×10MHz of paired frequency spectrum in the 700MHz band at a cost of GBP280 million, as well as further 20MHz block of supplementary downlink spectrum in that same band for GBP4 million, and 40MHz in the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz band (GBP168 million), taking its total spend to GBP452 million. O2 UK also secured frequencies, agreeing to pay GBP280 million for 2×10MHz paired in the 700MHz band and GBP168 million for 40MHz in the higher band. Meanwhile, Vodafone UK offered GBP176.4 million for a 40MHz block of spectrum in the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz band, with Three UK rounding out the winners, having bid GBP280 million for 2×10MHz in the 700MHz band.
In terms of the next steps, Ofcom said the auction will now move to the ‘assignment’ stage, which will involve a single bidding round in which the MNOs can bid for the frequency positions they prefer for the airwaves they have secured in the principal stage. According to the regulator, after submitting their assignment stage bids for the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz band, bidders will have the opportunity to negotiate the frequency positions among themselves, should they seek to join together their newly-acquired spectrum with frequencies they already hold in the wider 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band. Ofcom noted though that this will be subject to whether the companies wish to enter the negotiation period, and should they do so it said it would publish the dates for the negotiation period. Final results for the auction – including the total amounts paid, the specific frequencies secured for each bidder, and the outcome of any agreements reached in the negotiation period – will be published once all stages are complete.