O2’s 4G network to receive big boost after recent spectrum auction

After a recent spectrum auction in the UK, O2 has emerged as the big winner, having purchased network capacity for both future 5G services as well as existing 4G. 

The spectrum auction, where mobile network providers purchase the right to use certain ‘blocks’ of radio frequencies, was widely seen as paving the way for future 5G services that are expected to launch around the year 2020. The result is expected to be around 33% more network capacity to provide a range of smart devices with internet connectivity.

But in addition to these 5G-focused 3.4GHz bands, Reuters reports that O2 also walked away with more 2.3GHz spectrum, which it will be able to use to improve its existing 4G services. The company said that it will start using the spectrum first in London, before moving on to Edinburgh, Newcastle and other cities in the coming months.

Related: Everything you need to know about 5G

O2’s big win didn’t come cheap. The operator spent almost £524 million on its new spectrum, which will hopefully lead to boosts in its network speed, coverage, and reliability.

Meanwhile, competitors EE and Vodafone were limited by regulations preventing companies from controlling more than 37% of the total spectrum. EE and Vodafone both focused their attention on the 5G-only 3.4GHz band as a result. O2 was free from such restrictions, as it previously controlled the least amount of spectrum with just 14%, according to the BBC.

Three was the most conservative of the four providers, and spent just £151 million on its future 5G spectrum. However last year the company acquired UK Broadband (the owner of the 4G-based broadband provider Relish), which already owns some 5G-ready spectrum. A spokesperson from Three said that this effectively means the company holds as much 5G spectrum as the other three companies combined.

Overall, almost £1.4bn was spent in the auction, which is money that will go into the government’s coffers.

We’ll have to wait and see what the real-world benefits of this increase in spectrum bring, but it’s great to see all the major network providers gearing up for the next generation of mobile internet.

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