South Korea wraps 5G auction for 3.5, 28 GHz

Operators in South Korea will be able to use 3.5 and 28 GHz spectrum starting in December. (Pixabay)

South Korea just keyed up some 5G spectrum in what appears to be record time, at least by U.S. auction standards. South Korea’s auction of 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum for 5G started on Friday and wrapped up by Monday, with the three mobile carriers pledging to pay a total of $3.26 billion.

SK Telecom and KT Corp. each won 100 MHz of the 3.5 GHz spectrum, with LG Uplus obtaining 80 MHz, the Yonhap News Agency reported. All three companies secured 800 MHz of the 28 GHz spectrum, according to ZD Net.

The auction was divided into two sessions, with the three companies submitting their bidding prices in the first phase, which took some three hours, Yonhap said. The second phase consisted of an allocation of different wavelength of the spectrum.


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Specifically, 280 MHz bandwidth of 3.5 GHz spectrum and 2400 MHz bandwidth of 28 GHz spectrum were available in a block auction. The respective spectrum was divided into 28 blocks and 24 blocks.

SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus each had a 10-block cap per spectrum, according to ZD Net, which said they can start using it Dec. 1 per the Ministry of Science and ICT.

In the U.S., the FCC is still considering rule changes to the 3.5 GHz band. The situation in the U.S. is unique in that it’s part of the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band that includes a three-tiered sharing paradigm that has yet to be tested in a commercial setting. But it’s drawn a great deal of interest from wireless operators, cable companies and enterprises that want to deploy their own private LTE networks.

The FCC voted on 3.5 GHz CBRS rules in 2015, but CTIA and T-Mobile petitioned the commission to review the rules in part because of the interest in 3.5 GHz as a 5G technology worldwide. Being lower on the spectrum, the 3.5 GHz band is appealing because there’s more of it than low-band spectrum and it’s next door to another band up for consideration, the 3.7-4.2 GHz.

Notably, the 3.5 GHz item is not on the commission’s July meeting agenda, based on Chairman Ajit Pai’s blog.

RELATED: FCC proposes Nov. 14 as start of 28 GHz auction

The FCC has set a date of Nov. 14 for the auction of 28 GHz to begin, to be followed by the 24 GHz auction. Wireless operators have called on the FCC to bundle more millimeter wave spectrum bands into one big auction, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

Verizon has already acquired a good chunk of the 28 GHz band through secondary market transactions with Straight Path and XO.

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