Eight countries make 5G spectrum available in Q2
Aug 02, 2019 by Toby Youell


LocationGermany, Global, Japan, Thailand, US
Tags$/MHz/POP, PolicyTracker Spectrum Database, PSD, Spectrum Auctions

The latest update of the PolicyTracker Spectrum Database shows 5G assignments picking up in both mmWave and mid-band frequencies. Despite attention on the German C-band auction, the quarter’s most expensive spectrum was acquired elsewhere.

Nine regulators have made spectrum available for mobile services this quarter, according to the latest iteration of the PolicyTracker Spectrum Database (PSD). All but one of these concerned 5G spectrum in the 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 3.3 – 4.2 GHz, 4.5 GHz, 26 GHz or 28 GHz bands.

Globally, Q2 saw assignments for 5,644 MHz of spectrum, 85% of which was awarded by national regulators or governments for the first time in their markets. The rest of the assignments came from licence renewals and trades.

…mid-band frequencies are currently attracting the greatest interest globally

When considering the amount of spectrum assigned on a national basis, almost two-thirds (64%) of assigned frequencies were in the mmWave bands, specifically the 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands that were awarded in Japan and the USA.

The PSD shows that the largest number of awards were for low-band frequencies below 1 GHz. Four of these awards were for the 700 MHz band, predominantly in European countries, who are trying to release the band by this time next year. Canada was also able to award the 600 MHz band using the same bandplan adopted in the neighbouring USA.

However, mid-band frequencies are currently attracting the greatest interest globally. Probably the most high-profile award in Q2 was Germany’s 3.4 – 3.7 GHz band auction, which cost the equivalent of $0.19/MHz/POP. Japan’s completion of its 3.6 – 4.1 GHz band beauty contest may also have significant long-term consequences. The quarter also saw a 3.5 GHz band award in Kuwait, and a licence renewal for 50 MHz of the band in Latvia.

We also tracked 12 renewals for 804 MHz of nationally assigned spectrum. Half of the spectrum was in the GSM bands (900 MHz + 1800 MHz), while a third of the frequencies were in the 2.1 GHz band. Renewals in the wealthier countries tended to be done through auction, notably Germany and Norway’s 2.1 GHz band and Denmark’s 900 MHz band.

And the winner is…

…the cheapest spectrum was for high-band frequencies, specifically the 24 GHz band in the USA

Although prices paid for the 3.4 – 3.7 GHz band in Germany gained a lot of attention, in relative terms the most expensive assignment in Q2 was  700 MHz band in Thailand. Three operators there paid the equivalent of $0.36/MHz/POP for a 2 x 10 MHz block. In return, operators were able to restructure payments for the 900 MHz band, a development that is also tracked in the PSD.

Perhaps predictably, the cheapest spectrum was for high-band frequencies, specifically the 24 GHz band in the USA, which sold for $0.009/MHz/POP. Prices for those licences were likely depressed by ongoing uncertainty regarding the outcome of WRC-19, which could impact the emissions limits on some of the blocks sold.

The PolicyTracker Spectrum Database tracks changes to global spectrum allocations and assignments, from auctions, beauty contests, renewals, or the results of trades. It is updated quarterly and is available as part of our Spectrum Research Service.