Britain's main mobile telecoms operators have begun bidding for a share of newly released airwaves that they will be able to use to augment 4G services, and to use for new 5G services when they roll out their upgraded networks.
The country's main mobile network operators - EE, O2, Vodafone and Three - have launched already submitted their opening bids for 5G spectrum. They are joined by Airspan Spectrum, which also wants to buy a slice of the UK's 5G technology infrastructure.
The bidding war will take place over the next few weeks.
Just five companies are taking part in the auction after one of them, Hull-based Connexin, withdrew late last week. They will be bidding for space on two frequency bands.
First is the 2.3GHz band, capacity that is expected to be released soon, which the mobile operators can use to increased their mobile data capacity.
Second is the 3.4GHz band, which telecom operators will be expected to develop fifth-generation mobile services and applications.
It is widely believed that 5G offers better browsing speeds and latency. The general consensus is that, in the coming years, existing 4G services will lack the capacity to support the growing Internet of Things ecosystem, alongside personal and corporate demand.
Philip Marnick, spectrum group director at Ofcom, explained that it is the job of the regulatory body to ensure that the auction runs smoothly and that firms make fair bids.
He said: "Our job is to release these airwaves quickly and efficiently, and we want to see them in use as soon as possible. We are glad the auction is now underway.
"This spectrum will help improve people's experience of using mobile broadband today, and also help companies prepare for future 5G services."
In total, Ofcom is looking to auction 190MHz of spectrum - although there are caps in place to ensure that every bidder gets a fair share (not withstanding Three's pre-auction complaints that these caps were set too high - complaints rejected by the High Court at the end of December).
The auction was delayed when EE and Three filed legal complaints over these caps. Last month, Marnick explained: "We're pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible.
"This will benefit today's mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G, allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology."
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