Airwave auction results announced by Ofcom
Ofcom has raised £1,355,744,000 i.e. £1.4 billion in shorthand from the latest airwaves auction. The auction was around two frequency bands, 3.4 GHz which is expected to be used for 5G and 2.3 GHz which adds more capacity for 4G networks.
The final assignment stage that will determine the specific frequencies in each band for the auction winners will now take place, but the size of the spectrum and bands paid for is known for the five entrants in the auction.
- Airspan Spectrum Holdings Ltd did not win any spectrum
- EE got a 40 MHz slice of the 3.4GHz band at a price of £302,592,000
- Hutchison 3G UK (Three) 20 MHz in the 3.4GHz band costing £151,296,000
- Telefónica UK (O2) all of the 40 MHz 2.3 GHz in the auction with a price tag of £205,896,000. Additionally 40 MHz of 3.4 GHz for £317,720,000
- Vodafone 50 MHz in the 3.4 GHz band costing £378,240,000
As with other airwave auctions the money raised goes to HM Treasury.
This spectrum will be instrumental in further improving 4G mobile services now, while helping the UK to lead the 5G revolution and build a Britain that is fit for the future. We hope that it can now be deployed as soon as possible for the benefit of consumers right across the UK.Digital Minister Margot James
The extra spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band should mean existing 4G services with O2 will get faster where mobile devices have support for the band and can actually see the signal. In terms of geographic coverage the lower the frequency the better the range generally, so it seems likely that those with no O2 signal in an area will not benefit unless extra masts are deployed but that those who can get an O2 signal may see less congestion at the mast in busy areas.
A small note of caution on the 5G in the 3.4 GHz band, while 5G is more efficient and squeezes more out of the spectrum compared to 4G the headline promise of multi Gigabit speeds to your mobile are actually going to come from much higher frequency bands 10 GHz to 60 GHz.
The money raised from the auction while not as crippling as the old 3G auction may still encourage landowners to hold out for high rents to host masts on their land and the deployment of more masts combined with a 700 MHz band roll-out are key to delivering mobile coverage. The rush towards deploying Wi-Fi kiosks and hidden in street furniture show the likely pattern for 5G deployments, i.e. lots more small cells to blanket areas with the high frequencies and it is possible some high rent mast sites will lose out if partnerships with local authorities give enough access to lamp posts so that the big old mast on top of a block of flats is not needed.
Looking at overall UK mobile situation the median speeds in Q3 2015 were 9.4 Mbps down (1.9 Mbps up) and have risen to 15.6 Mbps down (3.1 Mbps up) for Q1 2018. The mean speed is higher at 22.2 Mbps for download speeds reflecting the impact of the small 2 to 3% testing with speeds above 100 Mbps on their mobile devices.