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German Spectrum Auction promises Mobile Broadband for Rural Areas

by Philip Kendall | Apr 28, 2010

The bids in Germany’s current spectrum auctions are starting to add up. With a range of spectrum on the table (800MHz, 1800MHz, 2GHz and 2.6GHz), it is the digital dividend 800MHz spectrum that is dominating proceedings – at the end of round 94 the bids totalled €1.9 billion, with nearly 90% of this bid on the 800MHz spectrum. image Although there is still some way to go, the auction is already pricing the 800MHz spectrum at more than 30x higher than the 2.6GHz spectrum. The need for denser LTE networks in higher frequency bands will come, but for now 800MHz is much more valuable as it is the most cost effective for delivery of next generation coverage. However, in this instance the government isn’t leaving that to chance as it strives to close the broadband coverage gap in rural areas. Winning bidders have to cover smaller towns before they can move on to larger cities. That is a nice touch by the government. The next few years of spectrum auctions in Europe are unlikely to raise the kind of sums seen in the 2.1GHz 3G auctions of 1999-2001. So getting some public good (other than money for the public purse) out of the auctions makes sense. Building in licence rules to make sure 800MHz spectrum really is used to close the digital divide is logical as 3G/4G mobile broadband adoption soars. So if you live in a rural community that has yet to be touched by DSL/cable and are fed up waiting for a decent 3G mobile broadband signal, the sale of 800MHz spectrum for mobile services and they way coverage is being prioritized in the legislation is good news (provided you can wait a little longer for the spectrum to be cleared of analogue TV). But for the rest of the population in Germany at least, this is probably all very dull. There are only four bidders in this auction (the four existing mobile operators), so it will do nothing for competition and probably nothing for pricing either. Many operators we speak to have a similar view to TeliaSonera and will position LTE as a premium mobile broadband product as they try to pull back from what has often been quite intensive price competition in this fledgling sector.
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