UK regulator announces final 5G spectrum allocations | Mobile | News | Rapid TV News
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After the final negotiation stage of the UK 5G spectrum auction by Ofcom,  BT-owned mobile operator EE has increased holdings significantly, while O2 and Vodafone have taken advantage of new regulations to trade spectrum bands and claim the UK fastest 5G indoor and outdoor speeds.
Vodafone 5g video 27April2021
Bidding in the principal stage auction for 200MHz of 5G spectrum ended in March 2021, drawing the relatively modest overall spend of just of £1bn, a figure regarded as good news for maintaining the UK’s 5G development. The assignment stage involved a single bidding round in which interested parties were able to bid for the frequency positions they preferred for the airwaves they have secured in the principal stage. The assignment stage ended with four operators investing a total of £1.379 billion.

Overall, EE won 80MHz overall of the 700MHz and 3.6GHz bands that were on offer. It had invested £452 million to secure the new spectrum in March 2021 before placing assignment bids with Ofcom and taking part in negotiations with other networks to establish the exact in-band position of the newly won capacity. EE has now secured positions within the respective spectrum bands for an additional £23m cost, taking its total investment to £475m. EE negotiated the ability to make a future spectrum trade, to obtain full contiguity for the holdings.

Looking at specific parts of the network that it now owns, EE secured 40MHz of 3.6GHz spectrum, doubling current holdings. The company said that as it was the launch band for 5G, 3.4-3.8GHz allows for “exceptionally high” performance and capacity in areas with denser populations and can be accessed by all current 5G handsets. EE also secured 20MHz of paired and a further 20MHz of unpaired 700MHz spectrum. 700MHz is new to 5G services in the UK but already used extensively in Europe, and is supported on recent key customer handsets, including the iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21. The spectrum band will support wider and deeper 5G coverage, including indoors, and help deliver better capacity overall.

With its new infrastructure secured, EE says that it has already carried out work on a number of sites to allow the new spectrum to launch soon. EE says that it will roll out the 20MHz of paired spectrum extensively over the years ahead and begins trials of the spectrum on a small number of new sites. At the beginning of April, EE reported that it had switched on next-generation network capability in 35 new UK towns and cities, including outdoor 5G coverage to some popular tourist spots, bringing the total of 5G locations to 160.

In the initial stage of bidding, O2 owner Telefónica won 2x10MHz of paired frequency spectrum in the 700MHz band at a cost of £280m, and 40MHz in the 3.6-3.8GHz band at a cost of £168 million. Vodafone gained 40MHz in the 3.6-3.8GHz band at a cost of £176.4 million. By the end of the assignment stage, Telefónica acquired blocks in the 703-713 MHz and 758-768 MHz ranges and 3760-3800 MHz range worth a total of £448 million, while Vodafone invested £176.4 million to gain spectrum between 3720 and 3760 MHz.

In the assignment stage process, Ofcom added a clause whereby after submitting their assignment stage bids in the 3.6-3.8GHz band, bidders would have the opportunity to negotiate the frequency positions among themselves if they wanted to join together the airwaves they secured with spectrum they already held in the wider 3.4-3.8GHz band. And it is this clause which O2 and Vodafone are activating in order to, say the companies, enable improved coverage for customers – both indoor and outdoor - across urban, suburban and rural areas. They stressed that large contiguous blocks support faster speeds, lower latency and greener 5G services.

The move will, subject to approval from Ofcom, create a contiguous block of 80MHz 5G for O2, and ensure proximity of Vodafone’s blocks totalling 90MHz of spectrum. The companies already have a mast sharing business agreement.