Germany 4G Auctions Begin, Europe to Follow

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Germany’s first auction of new mobile spectrum for a decade kicked-off today with all four of the country’s main operators expected to bid on spectrum (pdf). According to a Dow Jones Newswires report, the auction is the first of its kind in Europe and is likely to set a benchmark for similar auctions throughout the continent.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and France are expected to hold auctions this year, with the U.K. expected to auction frequencies next year, says Business Week. Spain, Italy and Portugal have yet to say when their auctions will take place.

“Many European countries will follow our auction closely,” said Matthias Kurth, president of Bundesnetzagentur, the German telecoms regulator. Analysts expect the auction to generate between 3 billion and 7 billion euros, a far cry from the 50 billion raised in 2000.

Spectrum is being auctioned on four different bands: 800MHz, 1.8GHz, 2GHz and 2.6GHz and includes the ‘digital dividend’ spectrum freed up from the switch from analogue to digital TV.

T-Mobile, Vodafone, KPN (E-Plus) and Telefonica’s O2 will bid on the frequencies. E-Plus and O2 – the two smaller players – took legal action against the regulator last year, arguing that the auction rules favour T-Mobile and Vodafone as they already own significant spectrum below 1GHz. While this action was rejected by the courts, Dow Jones Newswires notes that further legal steps are possible.

The 800 MHz frequencies come with specific terms attached. The winners commit to building a network to cover at least 90 percent of the population in rural towns and districts, starting with areas with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, before they can use these frequencies in more densely populated areas.

Meanwhile, nine telecoms firms are bidding for three pan India licences that cover 22 regions. Bids for 3G spectrum licenses in India’s biggest markets are approaching $1 billion apiece just three days into the two-week auction.

“The auction has started and it is going smoothly,” said a telecom ministry official.

Leading Indian operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar are among the applicants bidding for the spectrum, along with Tata DoCoMo. The government owned operators MTNL and BSNL, which already offer 3G services, will also pay the same price as the three winners of the auction for the pan-Indian licences.

Analysts say that the bidding for the 20-year 3G licenses will be aggressive and could push the total raised closer to $11bn. The total number of mobile phones sold in India has jumped nearly 300% over the past few years, from 35 million in 2005 to 130 million in 2009, says the Indian Cellular Association.

India’s broadband wireless spectrum auction could kick off in about two weeks, once the 3G sale ends, notes Caroline Gabriel. The WiMAX community is battling hard to keep all three of the 2.3GHz licenses in the face of a possible TD-LTE deployment, should a Qualcomm-led group win a license. If Qualcomm does win a license, the other two Indian operators will almost certainly both use WiMAX (state-owned BSNL is already deploying).

Aviat Network’s deployment with BSNL is the first commercial, urban mobile WiMAX 16e network in India. It’s starting in the state of Kerala with a population of more than 35 million. This mobile WiMAX rollout by BSNL will represent one of the largest Mobile WiMAX deployments in the world.

Taiwan, with a land area of a mere 32,260 square kilometres (13,892.0 sq mi), has no less than six WiMAX operators on the island using 2.5GHz WIMAX licenses awarded in July 2007 – three for the northern part of the island and three for the southern part.

Taiwan’s government has made WiMAX a priority to accelerate time-to-market, making Taiwan the worldwide IT test bed and application demonstration center.

The WiMAX operators include; First International Telecom (FiTel), Tatung InfoComm, Global Mobile, Vee Telecom Multimedia, VMAX, and Far EasTon.

VMAX (below), launched a free Wimax service to taxi passengers in Taipei last month while Global Mobile plans to roll out WiMAX throughout Taipei by the end 2010.

China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile network operator, signed a deal with Taiwanese operator Far EasTone to jointly develop a next generation TD-LTE mobile network in Taiwan for testing purposes, the companies said in a joint statement.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, April 12th, 2010 at 8:55 am .

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