The UK regulator Ofcom has updated the draft conditions of the 5G spectrum auction planned in spring 2020. The main change consists in leaving out the coverage obligations as the four MNOs have committed themselves to reach a coverage of their 4G networks of at least 92% of the UK within next six years. This exceeds the coverage which Ofcom originally planned to impose as a licence obligation in the 5G auction.
The original draft conditions from December 2018 on the 5G auction in the bands 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz assumed accepting coverage obligations to become part of the licence award procedure. Ofcom’s aim was to improve the coverage in rural areas. In response, four mobile operators BT/EE, O2, Three and Vodafone introduced their “shared rural network” plan as an alternative to guarantee coverage based on their 4G networks.
The MNOs eventually agreed with the Government on 25 October 2019 on deal worth GBP 1bn to provide for a shared coverage of at least 95% and an individual coverage by each operator of at least 92% of the UK by 2025. The Government will provide about one half of the total costs of the network expansion. The commitment of the operators will be incorporated in their licences and Ofcom will regularly monitor and report the operators’ compliance with their new coverage obligations.
The revised proposal of the auction design is open for comments until 9 December 2019.
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