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Competition mounting in the UK’s budding 5G market

Competition mounting in the UK’s budding 5G market

Ofcom has announced that UK telecoms companies will have the opportunity to bid for the rights to the 5G mobile network spectrum later this year.

The fifth-generation mobile network is expected to help ready the world for the so-called 'internet of things', which 4G does not have the capacity for. 5G's high-frequency bandwidth will be able to connect driverless cars and smart houses, as well as smartphones, which currently use 4G to connect users to the internet.

The UK rollout of the network isn't expected until 2020, but competition to be the biggest player is already mounting. Both Three and O2 want Ofcom to cap the amount of the 5G spectrum that EE, now owned by BT (BT.A), and Vodafone (VOD) will be allowed to own. EE, which was the first company to roll out 4G, already owns 45 per cent of the country's spectrum and Vodafone has 28 per cent.

Private group Arqiva announced this week that it will be the first to trial 5G in the UK, alongside mobile giant Samsung. Arqiva already owns a national licence to the 28GHz spectrum band, which is the same frequency used for 5G trials in the US, South Korea and Japan.

IC VIEW:

There is some scepticism that 5G is the right place for telecoms investment - experts have argued that companies should prioritise sorting out the UK's poor 4G network first. EE's chief executive has previously said there is still some "great mileage" to be had out of 4G. But for telecoms companies, there is a competitive advantage to be gained from being an innovator in this new frontier of mobile communications.

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By Megan Boxall,
02 March 2017

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