Ofcom announces details of 2016 spectrum auction

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High-capacity spectrum could be used for mobile broadband, such as 4G

Ofcom has confirmed plans for releasing valuable new airwaves that could be used to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband services.

An auction is planned to take place in early 2016 for the spectrum, which has been made available by the Ministry of Defence as part of a wider Government initiative to free up public sector spectrum for civil uses.

A total of 190 MHz of high-capacity spectrum is being made available in two bands – 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz – which are particularly suited for high-speed mobile broadband services, because they can carry large amounts of data. This is equivalent to around three-quarters of the spectrum released by Ofcom through the 4G auction in 2013.

Ofcom has also published details of the auction process and is setting reserve prices totalling £70m for the spectrum.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group Director, said:

“Spectrum is the essential resource which fuels the UK’s wireless economy. This auction is an important step in ensuring that the UK has the wireless capability to deliver and support new technology.

“We’re responding to rapid change and innovation in the communications sector, which is placing greater demands on spectrum. 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.”

More spectrum for mobile broadband

There will not be a cap on the amounts bidders can buy. Ofcom believes that any cap could prevent a bidder from buying large blocks of adjacent spectrum. Large blocks have the potential to support very fast download speeds, meaning even faster mobile broadband for consumers, which helps pave the way for 5G.

The auction is designed to be fair and transparent, enabling the spectrum to be awarded to those who can put it to the most efficient use in the best interests of consumers. Ofcom 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 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.

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