Europe’s Digital Divide Auction

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Regulators across Europe are auctioning spectrum this year in the the 800MHz Digital Dividend spectrum and at the 2.6GHz frequency. Norway, Finland and Sweden auctioned their spectrum in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively, while Germany, Denmark, and Austria held auctions in 2010. France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland and Belgium are all expected to have spectrum auctions this year.

The Digital Divide Spectrum is the spectrum freed up by the transition to digital television, since it needs less spectrum. In Europe, it is from 174 to 230 MHz (VHF) and from 470 to 862 MHz (UHF). However, the location and size of digital dividend vary among countries. Most carriers plan to use LTE on the new spectrum.

Spain’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) spectrum auction has just concluded, reports Light Reading. Some 270MHz of spectrum was up for grabs, with 58 blocks available in the 800MHz, 900MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands. Incumbent Telefónica SA, Orange Spain and Vodafone España got most of the spectrum, leaving eight bidders empty-handed.

The auction raised €1.65 billion (US$2.37 billion), above the minimum required but short of the €2 billion ($2.87 billion) the Spanish government had hoped for. Vodafone España won 60MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, for which it will pay €518 million, and says it will launch LTE in rural as well as urban areas.

The operator, also known as Vodafone Spain, is paying €518 million (US$744 million) for 20MHz (2 x 10MHz) in the 800MHz band, which will become available in 2014 when the switch from analog to digital TV is completed in Spain, and 40MHz (2 x 20MHz) in the 2.6GHz band, which is available immediately.

Vodafone Spain, which has 17.35 million customers, says it has also been given permission to “re-farm” some of its 900MHz spectrum, which was initially issued for GSM services, for 3G and, as a result, intends to extend its 3G services into rural areas before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Five Italian operators have submitted requests to participate in Italy’s upcoming spectrum auctions in the 800MHz, 1800MHz, 2000MHz and 2600MHz bands, reports Reuters. Italy’s four main mobile operators, Telecom Italia, Vodafone, Wind and 3 – plus broadband provider Linkem – have declared their interest. The government is hoping to raise EUR2.4 billion. The companies will now have a month to present their offers.

France launched their LTE spectrum process earlier this month. Operators have until September to submit their bids. Higher-end 2.6GHz spectrum will be divided into four lots and awarded in October, while the desirable 800MHz band will be split into 14 lots before being allocated in 2012.

Bidders in the 800MHz band will be obliged to cover 98 per cent of the population within 12 years.

The UK government aims to raise £5 billion ($8 billion) from the forthcoming spectrum auction. The UK will auction 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz for the equivalent of three quarters of the mobile spectrum that is in use today. Their auction is planned to start in the first quarter of 2012.

The UK’s analogue television signals are being switched off, region by region, between 2008 and 2012. In principle, this means that all 368MHz might be available for new uses, but it was previously decided by the Government that 256MHz of the 368MHz should be used for digital terrestrial television (DTT). This digital broadcasting will be provided by six multiplexes, each of which can carry a number of television channels and some other services.

This decision allowed digital terrestrial television to expand its coverage – to match that of analogue, at 98.5% of the population; and its capacity – to around 10 times that of analogue in most of the country, and around 5 times elsewhere.

At the same time, digital switchover will allow the remaining spectrum – 112MHz – to be released for new uses. It is this 112MHz that forms the core of the ‘digital dividend’.

The U.S. 700MHz auctions in 2008 raised a total of $19.6 billion dollars, with the 10 MHz “D-block” spectrum remaining unsold. AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless accounted for $16.3 billion of the $19.6 billion of the 700 MHz bids.

Europe left 50 MHz in the middle of the 2.6 GHz spectrum, believing unpaired WiMAX might use that space. CEPT carriers lobbied against it (pdf), hoping to commander it for additional downlink channels.

Now, with unpaired LTE (TD-LTE) getting strong support from China and India, the industry may be shifting again. The potential of TD-LTE to save spectrum — especially when utilizing next generation LTE Advanced with 20 MHz channels — is significant. Carriers may coordinate their approach to LTE for global roaming — or simply lock out competition by using paired 20 MHz channels – despite being inefficient in a data-driven world that runs on asymmetric channels.

The world’s largest mobile carriers (like SingTel, Vodafone, Telefónica, América Móvil, France Orange and Telenor), may like the idea of grabbing 40 MHz in the 2.6 GHz band (20 Mhz x 2) — there’s only room for three carriers that way.

But two of the largest mobile carriers in the world, China Mobile (600 million subs) and Bharti Airtel (208 million subs), are TD-LTE supporters. Their support may help make the unpaired frequency band a lot more competitive.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Clearwire Chooses LTE Advanced, Spectrum Drama: Made for TV, LTE Spectrum: It’s War, German 4G Auction: It’s Done, Auctions Winding Down in Germany & India, Germany 4G Auctions Begin, Europe to Follow, EU: Global LTE Roaming at 1.8 GHz, T-Mobile Makes Its (4G) Move, End Near for Indian WiMAX?, WiMAX & LTE: Policy Vs Pragmatism, Intel: LTE Not Nail in Coffin, India’s Broadband Auction: It’s Done, India’s Broadband Auction: No Free Lunch, TD-LTE Gains Momentum, WiMAX Forum: Not Dead Yet, Yota Dumps WiMAX, UK Getting LTE, WiMAX to TD-LTE: Everybody’s Doin’ It, Speculation on Sprint Infrastructure, LG Telecom: CDMA & LTE Handover, Australia: WiMAX to TD-LTE,

Posted by Sam Churchill on Sunday, July 31st, 2011 at 9:47 am .

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