Ofcom is hoping to satisfy mobile network operators desire for more spectrum by announcing how it will auction off frequencies for mobile technology including 5G.
- New mmWave spectrum would boost 5G capacity in cities and major transport hubs
- But the frequency band in question would require a dense network of masts to provide wider coverage.
The regulator has set out the design of the auction for awarding licences for millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum. This very high spectrum is ideal for high speed connections, but generally has much lower coverage. This means its best suited in cities and major transport hubs but would need more 5G masts to provide any decent coverage. The extra spectrum could reduce instances of streaming issues when at a busy railway station or airport, for example.
Back in September, Ofcom confirmed that it would open the 26 GHz and 40 GHz spectrum bands to mobile technology. As well as improving mobile services – particularly capacity and speeds in cities and major towns – mmWave spectrum could also enable innovative wireless applications requiring large amounts of data, very high speeds, or both.
The USA has already deployed mmWave, where the rollout has led to a confusing array of different ‘varieties’ of 5G.
Three categories of spectrum lots will be auctioned:
- 26 GHz lower (25.1-26.5 GHz);
- 26 GHz upper (26.5-27.5 GHz); and
- 40 GHz (40.5-43.5 GHz).
Each lot will comprise of a block of 200 MHz. Reserve prices will be £2m for each lot of 26 GHz lower and 26 GHz upper, and £1m for each lot of 40 GHz.
The auction will be run in two stages. The principal stage – which will be a clock auction – will decide the quantity of spectrum each bidder will be allocated. This will be followed by an assignment stage which will decide the precise frequencies allocated to each winner.
Despite the new spectrum becoming available, mobile network operators are also interested in lower frequencies as well.
Starting in just two weeks’ time, delegates will meet at the World Radiocommunication Conference. They will determine if frequencies currently used for TV services should be reused for 5G in Europe and beyond.
Meanwhile, Ofcom, having set out how it wants the auction to run, is consulting on the last details of the auction process.