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Feds pull in $2.1 billion from 5G-critical 3,800MHz spectrum auction

Telus spent the most on spectrum licences, followed by Bell and Rogers

The federal government announced the results of its 3,800MHz spectrum auction at the end of November. It awarded 4,099 spectrum licenses, bringing in over $2.1 billion.

3,800MHz is among the key spectrum for mid-band 5G, which is a crucial part of overall 5G service — and an area where Canada has fallen behind its peers. The licences awarded via the auction give exclusive rights to spectrum in specific geographic areas.

The over 4,000 licences were awarded to a total of 20 bidders following 98 rounds of bidding over the course of 21 days.

Per The Canadian Press, Telus won the most licences, securing 1,430 for nearly $620 million. In a press release, Telus said it now holds licences for an average of 72MHz of 3,800MHz spectrum nationally.

Bell Canada was awarded 939 licences for $518 million, followed by Rogers, which says it spent $475 million for 860 licences, securing on average 40.5MHz across the 172 regions available under the spectrum auction. In a press release, Rogers said its 3,800MHz spectrum would complement its existing 3,500MHz and 600MHz spectrum.

Quebecor-owned Vidéotron spent $298.9 million for 305 licences across multiple provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta. In a press release emailed to MobileSyrup, Quebecor said it would continue expanding its 5G network in those provinces through its subsidiary Freedom Mobile and the Fizz sub-brand.

The Globe and Mail reported that Cogeco acquired 99 licences covering the Greater Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa regions for $190.3 million.

It’s worth noting that carrier spending in the 3,800MHz auction was significantly lower than in the previous 3,500MHz auction, which saw the ‘Big Three’ shell out a combined $7.35 billion. The Globe notes that this likely stems from a change in how the government structured the auction. The 3,500MHz auction saw spectrum set aside for smaller players, while the 3,800MHz auction capped the amount of spectrum companies could acquire.

Header image credit: Shutterstock

Update 01/12/2023 at 11:26am ET: Added clarification regarding Rogers’ spectrum acquisition.

Source: The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail

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