Ottawa Announces Rules for Upcoming 3800 MHz 5G Spectrum Auction

The Government of Canada on Thursday announced several new rules for the auction of 5G spectrum in the 3800 MHz band, designed to promote competition and ensure that purchased spectrum is actually put to use.

According to Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada, the proposed measures will help smaller wireless providers compete, drive down wireless prices, and support the deployment of higher-quality wireless services. The new rules include:

  • imposing a 100 MHz cap on the large national providers as to how much combined 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz spectrum they can acquire;
  • reserving a total of 150 MHz across the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz spectrum bands for smaller competitors; and
  • implementing strong deployment requirements ensuring companies must “use or lose” the spectrum they win.

Last year, Ottawa decided to repurpose the 3800 MHz spectrum band for 5G. An auction for airwaves within that spectrum band is scheduled for 2023.

Canada’s last 5G spectrum auction, held in July 2021, saw carriers spend $8.91 billion to acquire available airwaves. However, the government’s decision to set some spectrum aside for smaller, regional carriers was heavily criticized by national players.

Given that Ottawa plans to make similar arrangements this time around, national carriers may once again garner objections.

“Our government recognizes that high-quality telecom services are crucial in the everyday lives of Canadians. That’s why we’re committed to making more spectrum available to improve competition, innovation and affordability, said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“Today’s announcement of the new rules for the 3800 MHZ spectrum auction is an important step in our ongoing efforts to ensure Canadians have access to affordable and high-quality services from coast to coast to coast.”