Final 5G spectrum auction results announced by Ofcom

4 May 2021

5G austion

After many delays and then a several week long auction process, the final results of the second 5G spectrum auction are now in, as seen above.

These are broadly the same as what we already knew, but now there are additional details, such as exactly which parts of the spectrum bands each network secured.

Specifically, EE acquired 40MHz of 3.6GHz spectrum, covering the 3680-3720MHz part of the band. It additionally came away with 40MHz of 700MHz spectrum, covering 723-733MHz, 778-788MHz, and 738-758MHz.

O2 meanwhile came away with 40MHz of 3.6GHz spectrum covering the 3760-3800MHz range, as well as 20MHz of 700MHz spectrum covering 703-713MHz and 758-768MHz.

Then there’s Vodafone, which secured just 40MHz of 3.6GHz spectrum (3720-3760MHz), and Three which only came away with 20MHz of 700MHz spectrum (713-723MHz and 768-778MHz).

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Changes could come

While we’ve said this is the final result, O2 and Vodafone have actually arranged to trade some of their spectrum to create an 80MHz contiguous block in O2’s case, and closer spectrum proximity in Vodafone’s – a move which should improve the performance of their 5G networks. This is subject to approval from Ofcom, but means the parts of the bands these networks hold could soon change.

In any case, all of this spectrum comes with a 20-year licence term, so it’s in the hands of these networks until 2041.

The auction raised £1,379,400,000, all of which will go to HM Treasury. That’s £23 million more than the preliminary figure, as EE submitted a successful bid to have some say over which parts of the spectrum bands it would be awarded.

This second 5G spectrum auction has increased the total amount of airwaves available to UK networks by 18%, so it should give the networks a significant boost once they start incorporating the new spectrum – though of course spectrum is just one piece of the 5G puzzle. Having contiguous blocks of it, plus good infrastructure, is also important.

A good haul

The auction has left EE with 80MHz of 5G spectrum, a total which doesn’t include the 40MHz of 700MHz spectrum it acquired, as while that’s good for widespread coverage, being low frequency it’s not typically good at delivering the sorts of speeds we think of with 5G.

O2 also has 80MHz (not counting its 20MHz of 700MHz spectrum), Three has 140MHz (not including its 20MHz in the 700MHz band), and Vodafone has 90MHz however you count it.

However, we’re expecting there to be further 5G spectrum auctions at some stage, including some for spectrum in the 26GHz band and above. These are key bands, as frequencies that high (known as mmWave or millimetre wave) tend to be available in much greater capacity, enabling them to deliver even greater speeds than the 5G spectrum currently in use in the UK.

 

Editorial Manager

James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.

In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and have over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.

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