Ottawa delays 5G spectrum auction because of COVID-19

Ottawa delays 5G spectrum auction because of COVID-19

The federal government is delaying a planned auction of 3500 MHz wireless spectrum for six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa announced Friday it is delaying an auction of wireless spectrum critical to the deployment of 5G networks. (Francisco Seco/Associated Press)

The federal government says it is delaying a planned auction of 3500 MHz wireless spectrum for six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bidding on the next batch of wireless spectrum — electromagnetic waves over which data gets transmitted on wireless cellular networks — was supposed to start at the end of 2020, but the auction will now be postponed until next summer.

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, made the announcement on Friday, saying the delay will “allow the telecommunications industry to maintain its focus on providing essential services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Wireless companies such as Rogers, Telus, Bell and others typically spend billions of dollars bidding for the rights to use certain spectrum bands in certain markets so their customers are better able to send and receive voice and data over their networks.

WATCH | What spectrum is and how it works:

Ever wonder what wireless spectrum is, and why the government auctions it off from time to time? Then check out this, our helpful explainer 1:28

Bidding in the last spectrum auction in April 2019, for the 600 MHz band, raised almost $3.5 billion.

The 3,500 MHz auction has been officially delayed, and consultations about the auction of the next band of spectrum, 3800 MHz, will begin in August.

Both bands will be critical for 5G, the next generation of wireless networks that can move much more data, much faster than current networks can.

Conspiracy theorists have claimed 5G technology helped caused the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is no scientific basis for those claims.

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