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Spectrum Newsletter – October 2021

14 October 2021 | Research

Michela Venturelli Caroline Gabriel

Newsletter | PDF (12 pages) | Wireless Infrastructure Strategies


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This edition of the Spectrum Newsletter for up to the end of August 2021 highlights the spectrum auction activity in four regions worldwide:

  • the Americas (Latin America (LATAM) and North America (NA))
  • Asia–Pacific (emerging Asia–Pacific (EMAP) and developed Asia–Pacific (DVAP))
  • Europe (Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Western Europe (WE))
  • the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

Notable events in the period include the following.

  • Canada. Canada’s auction of 3.5GHz spectrum in July 2021 generated a record CAD8.9 billion (USD7.2 billion); the three national MNOs (known locally as national mobile service providers (NMSPs)) accounted for more than 80% of the spending. The average price paid was USD1.847 per megahertz per member of the population (MHz/pop), which is the highest price seen in auctions for this band in any country. It was 165% of the average price paid in the USA (which was the next highest average price paid in any country), around 10 times higher than the price paid in France and 11 times higher than the price paid in the UK.
  • Spain. Spain’s 700MHz spectrum auction was completed in July 2021. It was first planned to take place in early 2020 but was delayed, initially because of the pandemic, and then again because of disputes over prices and conditions related to the spectrum licences.

To satisfy bidders, the regulator lowered the reserve prices by 15% in May 2021 and removed the conditions that prevents third-party operators from accessing the infrastructure. The auction raised EUR1.01 billion (USD1.2 billion) and Orange, Vodafone and Telefónica all secured 2×10MHz blocks. Vodafone and Orange will each pay EUR350 million (USD413 million), while Telefónica will pay EUR310 million (USD366 million) due to faster roll-out obligations.

Successful bidders must activate 5G services in 450 localities with populations of more than 50 000 by the end of June 2025. They must also cover the country’s largest airports, train stations and motorways.

There were no bidders for the 5MHz blocks of unpaired spectrum, which meant that the regulator did not meet its EUR2.1 billion (USD2.5 billion) target.

The fourth MNO, MÁSMÓVIL, decided not to participate in the auction. It is in the process of acquiring Euskaltel and had asked for the auction to be postponed until that merger was complete. It also wanted the regulator to reserve some spectrum at a ‘reasonable price’ for operators that do not already have sub-GHz spectrum and/or to support regional allocations. These demands were not met, so MÁSMÓVIL did not participate and will now rely on 3.5GHz spectrum for its 5G deployment.

The next auction in Spain (for frequencies in the 26GHz band) will take place later this year.

  • Portugal. The auction in Portugal started in November 2020. The principal bidding phase started on 14 January 2021 once the bidding phase for new entrants was complete, and it remains ongoing at the time of writing. The regulator, Anacom, increased the minimum bidding increment for each spectrum lot to 5% on 27 September 2021 in order to accelerate the process because some operators were bidding in increments of just 1–3%. The sum of all bids had reached EUR368.2 million (USD435 million) by day 175, which is less than twice the EUR195.9 million (USD231 million) reserve price.
  • Croatia. Croatia’s auction concluded in August 2021 with the sale of licences in the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and mmWave spectrum bands to the three national operators, Telemach Hrvatska, Hrvatski Telecom and A1 Hrvatska. The auction raised HRK359 million (USD57 million) in total.

Each of the national operators won a 2×10MHz block in the 700MHz band and paid a total of HRK140 million (USD22 million). Telemach Hrvatska and A1 Hrvatska each also gained 100MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band, while Hrvatski Telekom gained 120MHz.

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