UK’s four major operators splash out £1.35bn at Ofcom’s spectrum auction
The UK’s four major operators spent a total of £1.35 billion as all four emerged successful bidders at Ofcom’s spectrum auction last week.
Three claimed to hold the largest amount of spectrum usable for 5G after acquiring 20MHz of 3.4GHz bandwidth in the auction.
Three’s total now stands at 144MHz following the acquisition of UK Broadband for £250 million last year, which gained the operator 124MHz from the 3.6GHz and 3.8GHz bands. In a statement, a Three spokesperson said: “5G technology is exciting for consumers and mobile operators and we are now in the process of planning how best to launch 5G services.”
In the bid for 3.4GHz spectrum which is earmarked for 5G in two years’ time, Hutchison Three won 20MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum for £151.2 million, EE took 40MHz at a cost of £302.5 million, O2 spent £317.7 million for 40MHz and Vodafone topped the 5G band spend with £378.2 million for 50Mhz.
O2 secured all remaining 2.3GHz 4G spectrum, 40MHz for £205.8m.
The operator will switch on the acquired 2.3GHz spectrum within 24 hours of Ofcom making them available to upgrade 4G overage, first in London with Edinburgh, Newcastle and Leeds to follow in the coming months.
O2 CEO Mark Evans said: “We’ve thrown down a major marker for our future commitment to the UK.
“Our investment in 3.4GHz enables us to move forward to further improve connectivity whilst boosting the economy and laying the foundations for 5G in Britain.”
The auction will now move to an assignment stage where winners from stage one will bid to decide where in the frequency bands their new spectrum will be located.
BT consumer division CEO Marc Allera said: “The acquisition of 40MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum positions us well for our launch of future 5G services and consolidates our position as one of the world’s leading providers of communications services.
“With this outcome, we’ll continue to roll out the fastest 4G service to consumers and businesses across the UK, and now look ahead to the potential new services that 5G will offer, keeping our nation at the forefront of digital communications.”
Ofcom spectrum group director Philip Marnick said: “As a nation we’re using ever more mobile data on smartphones and mobile devices.
“Releasing these airwaves will make it quicker and easier to get online on the move.
“It will also allow companies to prepare for 5G mobile, paving the way for a range of smart, connected devices.”
Mobile News contacted Vodafone for a comment but had not received a response at the time of going to press.
Canalys analyst Ben Stanton said: “Operators getting more spectrum is great for consumers. Range, scope and quality improve, but the problem with spectrum auctions is they draw money away from the actual buildout of infrastructure.”