British telecoms regulator Ofcom has pushed back its upcoming 5G spectrum auction due to COVID-19.
The latest spectrum auction was due to be held this month. However, with just a week left until the end of January, Ofcom issued the following statement this morning saying that it would be pushed back:
“Throughout our planning for the auction we have been closely monitoring the coronavirus situation.
Following a pause in the auction process, we are now planning for the principal stage of the auction (the start of bidding) to begin in March 2021.
We will continue to monitor developments.”
The auction is for spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency band which is suited for delivering widespread geographical coverage.
Most of the UK’s 5G networks currently operate in the 3.4 GHz band which delivers high speeds over shorter distances, making it a better option for urban deployments.
Spectrum in parts of the 3.6-3.8GHz band is also up for grabs. Overall, the auction is set to increase the amount of spectrum available for mobile services by around one-fifth.
In a statement, a BT spokesperson said:
“We’re disappointed the auction will now be delayed although we understand the unique circumstances.
The auction and subsequent release of spectrum remains central to the future rollout of mobile networks and 5G.
The economy’s recovery from Covid-19 is dependent on resilient digital infrastructure and we urge Ofcom to resist any further requests for delays.”
The spectrum up for auction is vital to improving the country’s connectivity when it’s needed most and boosting the recovery from the pandemic. The auction had ample preparation time and can be held remotely so the vague coronavirus reasoning doesn’t seem adequate.
We’ve reached out to Ofcom to provide further details on why the auction could not feasibly take place.
Update: An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Spectrum auctions generally involve bid teams working in a set location for each bidder.”
We’ve requested further clarification on why Ofcom failed to adapt to the COVID situation and whether it truly believes enough will change by March to avoid a repeat and further delay.
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