The Canadian government kicked off on June 15 an auction of 5G frequencies, a process that had been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tender will award licenses to operate spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. The spectrum auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks, with the government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.
A total of 23 bidders including Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus are expected to take part in the tender process. Other qualified bidders include Bragg Communications, CityWest Cable and Telephone, Cogeco Connexion, Ecotel, Nexicom, Saskatchewan Telecommunications, Sogetel and Videotron.
The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said that the winners of the 5G licenses would be announced within five days of bidding completion.
In April last year, the Canadian government raised C$3.47 billion (currently $2.84 billion) in the sale of 104 licenses of 600 MHz spectrum.
Rogers Communications dominated the auction, winning 52 licenses in every province and territory for $1.725 billion.
Telus spent $931 million to secure 12 licenses, while Bell, Canada’s largest telecommunications provider, did not win a single license. Bell said it decided not to buy any 600 MHz spectrum because it already has enough in other bands.
Rogers Communications recently said it had expanded its 5G network to reach 173 towns and cities across the country. The telco said that its 5G network currently reaches approximately half of the country’s population.
In January 2020, Rogers Communications had initially launched 5G in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Other large cities covered with 5G technology included Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City.
Rogers partnered with Ericsson in 2018 as its 5G vendor for its full network infrastructure, including its core and Radio Access Network.
Rival operator Bell Canada had announced the launch of its commercial 5G service in the country last June. The carrier’s 5G service was initially available in Montréal, the Greater Toronto Area, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
In 2020, Bell Canada selected Ericsson 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) technology to support its nationwide 5G mobile and fixed wireless access deployment. The carrier started the construction of its 5G network last year, using equipment from Finnish vendor Nokia.
Bell had also selected Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia as the suppliers of the carrier’s 5G standalone network.
Meanwhile, Telus selected Samsung Electronics as its 5G network infrastructure supplier in June 2020. Telus also said that European vendors Ericsson and Nokia are also supporting the deployment of its 5G network.
By the end of the year, Telus’ 5G network will cover 70% of the Canadian population utilizing its current spectrum holdings.