Ofcom has revealed the six companies qualified to take part in its upcoming 5G mobile spectrum auction.
In addition to the UK’s existing operators – EE, Vodafone, Three and O2, two further firms have been granted permission to bid in the auction.
One of those companies, Airspan Spectrum Holdings Limited, is backed by Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank, the Telegraph reported. The sixth firm is Connexin Limited, a wireless internet provider operating in the Hull region.
The auction includes an expansion of the UK’s existing 4G spectrum and a higher frequency spectrum band which will provide 5G communications.
Under Ofcom’s terms, no provider will be allowed to control more than 37 per cent of the UK’s mobile spectrum by 2020. As such, EE will be banned from buying more of the 4G spectrum.
The firm, which merged with BT last year and currently owns 42 per cent of the spectrum, had called for the cap to be dropped. Three, meanwhile, said that the rules needed to be strengthened, preventing any single provider from owning more than 30 per cent of the spectrum.
Both companies’ legal challenges were rejected. Three opted to appeal the decision at the High Court, but last month a judge blocked the move.
Ofcom said the auction process would start in late March. The regulator’s spectrum group director said in a statement: “We’re pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible.
“This will benefit today’s mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G – allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology.”