Four key 5G spectrum auctions to watch in 2021

Australia, India, Brazil and the U.K. have spectrum auctions planned throughout 2021

As 5G deployments accelerate globally, regulators still need to award key 5G frequencies to allow carriers to provide high-capacity services and, in some cases, provide a broader coverage in certain geographies. Here we briefly state four key 5G spectrum auction that will likely occur in 2021.

Australia

The Australian government recently confirmed that it expects to carry out two 5G spectrum auctions during 2021.

In April 2021, it has scheduled a spectrum tender to award high-band 5G spectrum (in the 26 GHz band), which will enable fast, high-capacity services. In the second half of 2021, the government will allocate low-band 5G spectrum (in the 850/900 MHz band), which will be key for broader geographic coverage of 5G services.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has recently opened applications to participate in the April 2021 auction of high-band 5G spectrum.

The regulator will auction 2.4 gigahertz of spectrum in the 26 GHz band in 27 geographic regions across Australia.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher, said the low- and high-band 5G spectrum will complement the mid-band 5G spectrum that the government has already auctioned.

India

India’s Department of Telecommunications is expected to carry out a 5G spectrum auction in the first quarter of 2021, according to recent Indian press reports.

Bharti Airtel India and South Asia Managing Director and CEO Gopal Vittal said that the 5G spectrum auction could take place between January and March.

Regulator Trai has recommended a price of INR 4.9 billion ($65 million) per megahertz for spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band.

A previous Finance Ministry recommendation suggested reducing the 5G reserve price of per megahertz to make it more affordable. All Indian service providers, including Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea, have asked the government to lower the base price for spectrum, especially that meant for 5G.

The auction will include the sale of almost 8,300 megahertz of airwaves, including 5G spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band and 4G spectrum in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands.

The auction was initially expected to take place in 2020, but the government decided to postpone the process due to the poor financial health of the industry and worries that the reserve price was too high to attract interest.

Brazil

The Brazilian government aims to carry out a tender to award 5G spectrum by the end of the first half of 2021, according to Brazilian press reports.

Local telecoms regulator Anatel’s President Leonardo Euler de Morais, said that the 5G tender will not seek to collect money but will require the winning companies to commit to invest in the sector.

Even before COVID-19, the 5G spectrum auction schedule had been postponed from its initial March 2020 date given the need to further investigate interference with other signals.

Anatel previously confirmed that it would award spectrum in the 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands.

U.K.

U.K. regulator Ofcom announced plans to hold a 5G spectrum auction in January 2021.

Ofcom stated the auction would cover the sale of 80 megahertz in the 700 MHz band and 120 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz band.

Ofcom confirmed that it will be releasing 80 megahertz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, following a four-year program to clear the band of its existing uses for digital terrestrial TV and wireless microphones.

The regulator is also releasing 120 megahertz of spectrum in 3.6-3.8 GHz band.

In the spectrum auction, Ofcom will offer six lots of 2×5 megahertz in the 700 MHz band with a reserve price of £100 million ($130.4 million) per lot. The process will also include four lots of 5 megahertz of 700 MHz downlink-only spectrum, with a reserve price of £1 million per lot and 24 lots of 5 megahertz of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum, with a reserve price of £20 million per lot.

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