Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, has decided to auction 190 MHz of spectrum in two frequency bands, increasing mobile capacity by nearly a third.
Some 40 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 2.3GHz band, which can be used by mobile operators immediately, given handset availability
Another 150 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 3.4GHz band, to support 5G, as handsets are made available.
Spectrum limits will apply for the auctions, limiting the amount of spectrum operators can win in the 2.3GHz band, and maintaining overall limits on the spectrum an operator can win across the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands in aggregate.
There is an immediate cap of 255 MHz on the “immediately useable” spectrum that any one operator can hold as a result of the auction. That bars BT/EE from bidding on 2.3 GHz spectrum at all.
A new restriction will limit to 340 MHz the total amount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction, including licenses to use 700-MHz spectrum.
The effect of the caps will be to reduce BT/EE’s overall share of mobile spectrum. The company can win a maximum 85 MHz of new spectrum in the 3.4GHz band.
The overall cap also means that Vodafone could gain a maximum 160 MHz of spectrum across both the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.
Ofcom says it also is planning on auctioning additional spectrum in the 3.6 to 3.8GHz band.
Such spectrum limits are used by regulators to stimulate or protect competition. In the fixed segment of the business, other measures, such as limiting the total number of households or customers any single operator can serve, have been used to create some amount of competition as well.