Ofcom approves six companies to take part in spectrum auction

27 February 2018

Ofcom has today announced the companies that have qualified to take part in the upcoming spectrum auction.

Ofcom is releasing more airwaves – or spectrum – to improve broadband for today’s mobile users, and to prepare for the roll out of future 5G services. Spectrum in two “bands” will be made available through the auction process, which Ofcom expects to start in late March. The spectrum available in the auction is as follows:

  • 40 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 2.3 GHz band, which is already supported by current mobile devices and could be used immediately after release.
  • 150 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 3.4 GHz band. These airwaves are not compatible with most current mobile devices, but are central to the roll out of 5G mobile across Europe.

The auction plans[1], announced last year, had been subject to legal challenge by both Three and BT/EE. The High Court rejected these claims in December 2017, and earlier this month, the Court of Appeal refused Three permission to appeal that decision. Ofcom is now pressing ahead with plans to hold the auction as quickly as possible.

Qualified applicants

Companies were required to submit applications to take part in the auction on 8 February. Ofcom has assessed each of the applications it received and is today publishing details of the companies that have qualified to take part in the auction. They are:

  • Airspan Spectrum Holdings Limited
  • EE Limited
  • Connexin Limited
  • Hutchison 3G UK Limited
  • Telef√≥nica UK Limited
  • Vodafone Limited

All qualified applicants now have three days to confirm whether they wish to take part, or withdraw from the process. We will publish the final list of bidders that will be taking part, once this period passes.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said: “We’re pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible. This will benefit today’s mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G - allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology.”



Ofcom’s auction plans

  1. When auctioning the spectrum, we will impose two different restrictions on bidders.
  2. a. A cap of 255 MHz on the “immediately useable” spectrum that any one operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap means BT/EE will not be able to bid for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band.

    b. A cap of 340 MHz on the overall amount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap amounts to 37% of all the mobile spectrum expected to be useable in 2020, which includes not only the spectrum available in this auction but also the 700MHz band.