How to take part in the upcoming spectrum auction

05 February 2018

The radio spectrum is crucial to many everyday items that help us to communicate and enjoy content and services.

Ofcom plays an important role in managing the spectrum. This includes releasing new airwaves to help improve services such as mobile, and also to allow new technology to grow. For example, access to the internet through your mobile using 4G requires spectrum.

One of the ways we do this is by holding auctions for certain spectrum bands – freeing up more airwaves for mobile companies to use so they can improve mobile coverage and offer faster mobile internet to their customers.

We are currently planning an auction for two spectrum bands, which will increase the airwaves available for mobile devices by almost one third. We won’t start the auction until a court case brought by Three has been heard in mid-February and the Court of Appeal has given its judgment, as the outcome of that case could affect the rules of the auction.

Releasing spectrum in one of these bands – known as the 2.3GHz band – means companies could use these airwaves immediately to increase mobile internet capacity. This would enable their customers to enjoy faster downloads and internet browsing.

The other band in the auction – the 3.4GHz band – may be used for new 5G technology. Most current mobile devices are not compatible with this technology yet, but in the near future mobile phones and tablets will be able to use it and customers will benefit from significantly better connections as a result.

Here’s how the auction to release these airwaves will work:

  • Companies will apply to be able to participate in the auction for the award of a licence to use these airwaves.
  • We will examine each application and determine whether the applicant should be qualified to participate in the award. We will publish the identities of qualified bidders.
  • Once bidding starts there will be several rounds of bidding.
  • We will set the price of each round, and each bidder will bid for the amount of spectrum it is willing to purchase at the price for that round.
  • Prices will generally increase until demand for spectrum matches the amount of spectrum available.

We have published details of the regulations that will apply to the auction, as well as guidance and application forms for companies interested in taking part. Applications for the auction must be submitted on Thursday 8 February.