5G spectrum auction news update from GSA

The value of spectrum auctions and assignments has reached nearly $96 billion by the end of April 2021, as compared with $28 billion in 2020, according to GSA.
Apple iphone 12 5G smartphone in SingaporeCountries that have auctioned/allocated C-Band spectrum since 2015 includes completed auctions for which GSA has all the prerequisite data to calculate a price per MHz of bandwidth per population for an individual band. Data is not included where GSA does not have information regarding price, bandwidth or population.

Since its last update in December 2020, seven countries have concluded auctions of C-Band spectrum: Bulgaria, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Sweden, the UK and the US, GSA report said.

The amount operators are prepared to spend on 5G spectrum depends on the degree of competition, the amount of suitable spectrum they already hold, the length of license available, the extent of the coverage/performance requirements that are attached to the license and the economic value.

The 2021 US auction of 3.7–3.98 GHz delivered a record high price for C-Band spectrum of $0.875/ MHz/Pop, significantly higher than the recent average price of $0.123/MHz/Pop.

The first part of 2021 has seen the completion of four mmWave auctions designed to support 5G deployment in Chile, Slovenia, Denmark and Australia. This brings the total number of countries to have licensed mmWave spectrum to 21.

Data for Hong Kong shows the maximum cost over ten years after an initial transition period. Pricing is on an annual basis at nearly $0.0004/MHz/Pop. There was nothing payable in 2019, 30 percent in 2020, 70 percent in 2021 and 100 percent thereafter, but fees only get levied if 75 percent of all spectrum in the 26–28 GHz range is used.

The prices paid for mmWave spectrum have been much lower than the prices paid for C-Band spectrum to date, with the price per MHz per Pop ranging from just over $0.001 in the US for spectrum at 47 GHz to just over $0.009 for spectrum at 37 GHz and 39 GHz also in the US. The only auction completed in 2021 to date is the recent Australian auction where the price was higher than the recent average of $0.0038/ MHz/Pop at $0.0089/MHz/Pop

Spectrum at 700 MHz has been used for LTE services for some time. However, it has now also gained interest for use in 5G networks, as it affords the ability to achieve wide 5G coverage, quickly. In 2021 to date, four countries have held auctions/assignments of FDD spectrum at 700 MHz and many more are planned for the remainder of 2021 and beyond.

GSA’s data shows that spectrum at 700 MHz has generated an average of $0.408/MHz/ Pop in assignments/auctions since 2015. In the latest auction of 700 MHz spectrum in the UK the price achieved was below this at $0.267/MHz/Pop, adding to a continued downward trend in the fees paid in this spectrum range.

The auction or assignment of 700 MHz, C-Band and mmWave spectrum is expected to continue apace throughout the remainder 2021. Auctions/assignments are currently ongoing or are expected to begin by the end of 2021 in around 40 countries/ territories.