Finland to hold 700 MHz spectrum auction in November


Finland’s government said it expects to raise at least €66 million ($74 million) from the sale of 700 MHz frequency licences, as it kicked off the process for a spectrum auction scheduled for Nov. 24.

Finland has thus become the latest European country to set out its plans for the allocation of 700 MHz frequency licences. The Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications said a governmental decree on the 700 MHz auction entered into force on Monday, meaning that interested parties will now be invited to submit applications for the licences.

A total of six frequency pairs of five MHz each will be auctioned off in the 703–733 MHz and 758–788 MHz bands at a reserve price of €11 million per pair. No single organisation or enterprise will be permitted to hold more than two frequency pairs, the ministry said.

The market’s three main mobile network operators, Sonera, Elisa and DNA, are among the most likely contenders to submit bids for the spectrum. The ministry noted that it would be possible to use the frequency bands for the construction of 4G networks from 2017.

Sonera, the Finnish unit of the Sweden-based Telia Group, said it was not in a position to comment on the situation at this point.

Elisa did not confirm whether or not it planned to participate in the auction. However, the operator’s senior development manager, Eetu Prieur, told FierceWireless:Europe that 700 MHz is an interesting spectrum, “because it is low band and thus provides good coverage. In future it could be naturally combined with other low band spectrum, i.e., 800 and 900 MHz.”

Prieur added that Elisa has also implemented two-carrier aggregation combining 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz spectrum (20+20 MHz) or 800 MHz and 1800 MHz (10+20 MHz).

“In a few sites Elisa has also three-carrier aggregation combining 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz (10+20+20 MHz),” he said.

DNA also noted that 700 MHz is an interesting band, "mainly because it provides for additional capacity to existing LTE networks especially in rural areas" and can co-exist with LTE bands currently in use.

“DNA has implemented carrier aggregation. Currently we have implemented up to three aggregated carriers providing speeds up to 600 Mbps,” a company spokesperson added.

Finland last carried out a spectrum auction in 2013, when 800 MHz frequency licences were awarded to all three operators and raised just over €108 million for government coffers.

At the time, the government expressed regret that the auction process had taken so long, and said the experience would inform future auctions. The 800 MHz auction took nine months to complete. The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority will be responsible for carrying out the 700 MHz auction process.

Frequencies in the 700 MHz band are regarded as important for the further expansion of LTE and future 5G networks in Europe. In May this year, the European Council said the 700 MHz band should be made available for mobile broadband services across the European Union by 2020 as part of a harmonised approach to freeing up this spectrum band.

Germany and France were the first two countries in the region to carry out 700 MHz spectrum auctions, while Denmark, Sweden and the UK are among those that have outlined plans to repurpose the 700 MHz band in the next few years.

For more:
- see this release from the Finnish government

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