Ex-Freeview frequencies to be auctioned in the spring

After viewers across the UK were asked to retune Freeview to restore any missing channels as part of a scheme to create more capacity for 5G services, Ofcom now takes the next step.

The 700MHz frequency band, which is being cleared off Freeview TV services on a region-by-region basis, is being reallocated to future 5G services. The last Freeview regional retune days will occur next year, allowing the frequencies to be used for faster mobile broadband services.

Ofcom has confirmed today it is releasing 80MHz of capacity in that frequency band as part of an auction due to take place in spring 2020.

The ex-TV frequencies are seen as ideal for ensuring mobile networks can cover more of the population, especially in rural areas. Unlike higher frequencies, they are not as ideal for high volumes of data, so mobile service operators also need extra capacity on low coverage higher frequencies to enable them to offer a reliable 5G service in densely populated areas. Ofcom is also releasing 120MHz of capacity in the 3.6-3.8GHz band as part of the same auction.

But there will be a cap of 37% of overall spectrum that any one mobile network operator can own, according to Ofcom, ensuring that there's fair competition between the networks. But coverage requirements that were due to be attached to the winning operators will now be ditched following an initiative announced last week that will involve mobile operators pooling resources in rural areas.

Philip Marnick, Spectrum Group Director at Ofcom said:
We’re pressing ahead with plans to release vital airwaves to improve mobile services for customers. Together with mobile companies’ commitments to improve coverage, this will help more areas get better services and help the UK maintain its place as a leader in 5G.