There will be more capacity for 5G networks from 2020 after regulator Ofcom confirmed long-awaited plans for a spectrum auction in early 2020.
Spectrum in this instance basically means the part of the airwaves reserved for mobile phone services. More is being made available to enable UK phone companies to roll out 5G more effectively - essentially increasing capacity and coverage.
Spectrum is a very high-value asset - networks have to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to secure a slot.
Part of the deal with the networks was to include a guarantee of rural coverage - this was sorted out as part of last week's announcement that EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have partnered up to share rural networks in an effort to bring 4G coverage to the areas that don't yet have it. This guarantee will be written into the 5G spectrum contracts, says Ofcom.
This spectrum auction will involve 80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band (for indoor and wide-area coverage for reliability) and 120 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band (for high-demand data in concentrated areas).
Winners of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum will be able to negotiate placements within the band among themselves to reduce the level of ‘fragmentation’ in 5G spectrum ownership - all four networks already have some 5G spectrum that they have used for the initial 5G rollout.