Auction being kicked off earlier than expected
Ofcom has confirmed plans to start its 4G and 5G wireless spectrum auction next week
The auction, which will see Ofcom offer up 40Mhz of frequency in the 2.3GHz band (which will be immediately available for 4G services) and 150MHz in the 3.5GHz band (which will be used for 5G services), will begin on 20 March, ISPreview reports.
The auction will run for "a number of weeks", Ofcom has confirmed, after which it'll be able to confirm which of the six bidding operators - BT-owned EE, O2, Three, Vodafone Hull-based ISP Connexin and Airspan Spectrum Holdings - have been successful.
This 20 March start date is earlier than expected, with Ofcom last month announcing that the auction would go ahead in April.
This confirmation came after Three failed in its last-ditch attempt to force a change to the bidding rules. The operator had called for Ofcom to impose a 30 per cent spectrum cap, slamming the watchdog's 37 per cent cap as "meaningless" and bad for competition.
BT-owned EE, which owns 43 per cent of available spectrum at present, also launched legal action in the direction of Ofcom in an attempt to stop it from imposing the same cap on the 3.4GHz 5G band.
Ofcom confirmed at the end of last month that it will impose a cap of 255MHz on the "immediately usable" spectrum, which means that BT-owned EE will not be able to bid for any.
A cap of 340MHz has also been placed on the overall amount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction.
Philip Marnick, Ofcom's spectrum group director, said last month: "We're pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible.
"This will benefit today's mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G, allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology."