First stage of mobile airwaves auction raises over £1 billion
Telecoms firms EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone have splashed out £1.35 billion in the first stage of bidding for mobile airwaves.
The spectrum auction, run by communication regulator Ofcom, saw the heavyweights bid for the ability to provide 4G mobile and 5G services.
Five companies are taking part in the auction and the first stage involved 34 lots of spectrum being made available across the two bands.
BT-owned EE won 40 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £302.6 million, Three owner Hutchison picked up 20 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum for £151.3 million, O2 parent Telefonica won all 40 MHz of 2.3 GHz spectrum available at £205.9 million, as well as 40 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum for £317.7 million while Vodafone won 50 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at £378.2 million.
All cash raised from the auction is to be paid to the Treasury.
Ofcom laid down the rules for the mobile spectrum auction last year as it looks to meet the insatiable demand for data from UK smartphone users.
The telecoms regulator said the auction would support 5G mobile and increase the available airwaves for mobile devices by a third.
Ofcom will now move to the "assignment" stage, which is the last bidding stage of the auction.
This allows companies that have won spectrum in the first stage to bid to determine where in the frequency bands their new spectrum will be located.
Following this, Ofcom will issue the winning bidders with licences to use the relevant spectrum within a few days, allowing them to begin putting it to use.
Philip Marnick, spectrum group director at Ofcom, said: "This is good news for everyone who uses their mobile phone to access the internet.
"As a nation we're using ever more mobile data on smartphones and mobile devices.
"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."
Ofcom is also requiring mobile companies to extend their networks as more airwaves are released next year and is trying to make it easier for companies to install masts.