The process of who will be awarded usage rights of the former Freeview TV frequencies starts on Friday.
Ofcom has announced that the auction of the 700MHz and 3.6-8GHz frequency bands will commence on Friday 12th March. It follows a long pandemic-related delay from last year.
Telefonica (O2), Vodafone, Hutchison 3G (Three) and BT (EE) will be participating in the auction that will make the frequencies available for 5G.
The 700MHz frequencies were widely used by Freeview services prior to the completion of a frequency clearance event last year. Only one Freeview multiplex, COM7 – which carries services including BBC Four HD, Quest HD and FreeSports – remains in the frequency band. COM7 uses bandwidth in the middle of the 700MHz band that won’t initially be used by 5G. It will have to close at an as yet unannounced time.
The 700MHz frequency is sought after is it will provide widespread coverage, especially in rural areas. The frequency band is also better at penetrating buildings.
In addition to the former Freeview frequencies, slots in the 3.6-3.8MHz frequency band will be up for auction. This band is better for increasing capacity – where the highest 5G speeds might be achieved. However signals transmitted in this band do not travel as far. Therefore, they are ideal for small high-density mobile usage areas, such as transport hubs and stadia.
According to Ofcom, bidding will take place in two stages:
- The Principle stage: Bids will be place on ‘lots’ of spectrum.
- The Assignment stage: Specific frequencies are allocated.
Ofcom will announce the winners of each stage shortly after the process has completed.
What does the new 5G service on former Freeview frequencies mean for viewers?
TVs and aerials are designed to receive services in the frequency band now being converted to use by 5G internet services. Freeview will continue broadcasting on frequencies just under the 700MHz band.
At the moment, nothing changes for Freeview viewers. From later this year, when the first 5G services go live in the 700MHz band, this will change. Read more…