Belgium issues three LTE licences as Czech auction gets underway

Auctions of spectrum licences for LTE networks are continuing across Europe, with Belgium the latest country to announce the successful issue of licences while the Czech Republic launched a second attempt to allocate frequencies for LTE networks.

The Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) said on its Web site that it has sold three lots of 800 MHz spectrum for €360 million ($484 million) to existing operators Belgacom, KPN-owned BASE and Orange-controlled Mobistar. This means that there will be no new LTE entrant on the Belgian market.

Each operator paid €120 million ($161.4 million) each for a licence, which is valid for 20 years. Belgacom and BASE have already launched some LTE services in their existing 1800 MHz frequency bands, while Mobistar plans to launch its LTE service in 2014.

In a statement confirming its licence purchase, Belgacom said LTE is now available in 217 cities and municipalities on the Belgacom/Proximus network and said the new frequencies will enable it to roll out its network further still. The operator is targeting 50 per cent population coverage by the end of this year.

BASE said it was targeting national coverage by the end of 2014, while Mobistar also confirmed it would adhere to the stricter coverage obligations of its licence. According to BIPT, the licence won by Mobistar requires the operator to cover 98 per cent of the total population within three years in those municipalities where no operator has satisfactory 3G coverage.

Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, the Czech Telecommunications Office has kicked off its second attempt to auction LTE licences after the first attempt in March was cancelled over concerns that bids were too high.

The CTO (or CTU in Czech) said the five registered participants--Vodafone Czech Republic, T-Mobile Czech Republic, Telefónica Czech Republic, Mobile Revolution and SAZKA Telecommunications--may submit their bids for frequencies to build high-speed mobile networks in three frequency bands: 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. According to Bloomberg, CTO wants to raise at least 8.72 billion koruna (€322 million or $433 million) in the auction.

The new auction round is not without its problems. Vodafone CZ, T-Mobile CZ and Telefónica CZ are all opposed the plan to reserve a 2x10 MHz block in the 800 MHz band and a 2x15.8 MHz block in the 1800 MHz block for a new player. Telefónica Group has since confirmed plans to sell its Czech unit to local company PPF for €2.5 billion.

For more:
- see this CTO release
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Belgacom release
- see this Reuters article

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