£1.15bn 5G bandwidth bought by mobile providers

9 April 2018

Network providers have bought nearly £1.15bn worth of bandwidth for 5G mobile internet services.

The auction was run by the communications regulator Ofcom and is part of the process of allocating bandwidth use to UK companies wishing to build 5G infrastructure. It brings the UK a step closer to developing this next generation mobile broadband technology.

Vodafone, Hutchison 3G which owns Three, Telefonica which owns O2, and EE have all successfully won the right to use 5G bandwidth.

Vodafone won 50MHz, Hutchison and Telefonica 40MHz, and EE 20MHz for 5G. Telefonica also purchased bandwith for 4G across a different frequency, for £206m.

5G is expected to be significantly faster than the current 4G technology and, as well as improving speeds for mobile phone users, will be an important part of the infrastructure needed for autonomous vehicles and smart cities.

Philip Marnick, spectrum group director at Ofcom, said: “This is good news for everyone who uses their mobile phone to access the internet.

“Releasing these airwaves will make it quicker and easier to get online on the move. It will also allow companies to prepare for 5G mobile, paving the way for a range of smart, connected devices.”

Developing 5G technology was an important part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, published in November, and the government’s ambitions to create a “world class digital infrastructure”.

In its 5G plan, the government predicted mobile traffic will increase eightfold between 2015 and 2020, and that new technologies including the Internet of Things, connected cities and driverless cars – which are expected to be able to communicate with traffic lights and other vehicles – will all require high speed internet connections to work.

There is still one more short phase of the auction process in which winning bidders will be allotted bandwidth within the 5G range, after which companies will be allowed to start using the frequency.

All the money raised from the auctions will go to HM Revenue.

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