The UK regulator, Ofcom, has opened the UK 5G spectrum auction, with 5 companies expected to make bids in the coming days

The UK’s 5G spectrum auction got underway today, with 6 firms bidding for the chance to host 5G services on their networks. 

The UK’s four main mobile network operators, 02, EE, Vodafone and Three, plus Airspan Spectrum Holdings Ltd, have all been pre-approved by Ofcom to submit bids in the auction. 

“Our job is to release these airwaves quickly and efficiently, and we want to see them in use as soon as possible. We are glad the auction is now underway. This spectrum will help improve people’s experience of using mobile broadband today, and also help companies prepare for future 5G services,” said Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s spectrum group director.

Ofcom has set a 37 per cent cap as the maximum amount of spectrum each network operator can own. 

The bidding process is expected to last a number of weeks and much will hinge on the results of the auction. Analysts are calling on the mobile operators to press ahead with their preparations for 5G roll out, in order to ensure that Britain is not left behind in the race to commercialised 5G services. 

“The 5G landgrab between Britain’s largest operators is creating a lot of noise, and not much action, on the UK’s path to 5G. The prospect of being the sleepy connectivity backwater of Europe should provide enough impetus to boost investment and speed up timelines. 5G is undoubtedly going to play a key role in the mixed economy of connectivity technologies that will enable ultrafast broadband, so it must be prioritised accordingly," said Alastair Masson, Head of Telco Media, NTT Data UK.

Masson cites a recent report published by Juniper, which claims that there will be 1.4 billion 5G connections by 2025, but as few as 1 million by 2019. 

"The report also forecasts that China, the US and Japan will have the highest number of 5G connections by 2025. If the UK wishes to remain ‘open for business’ post Brexit, it must deliver on the 5G promise or risk losing out on the revenues, prestige and opportunities that is coming with the Internet of Things," he added. 

Ofcom will publish the results of the auction in the coming weeks, once the bidding process has been completed. 


Ofcom’s spectrum group director, Philip Marnick, will be taking part in a lively panel session on 5G at this year’s Connected Britain event. Click here to find out how you can be part of the conversation.