German Digital Dividend auction faces threat of EU legal action

Regardless of rumblings from the European Commission, the advisory board of Germany's network regulator, the Federal Network Agency (FNA), has given the green-light to auction a spectrum package of 360MHz, including spectrum in the ‘digital dividend' range of 800MHz.

This move has promoted the EU to register its ‘deep concern' about the FNA's decision to ignore the commission's advice on how to ensure fair competition in allocating digital frequency in Germany. A spokesman said that, if the commission finds EU laws were not respected by the German plan it "would not shy away from enforcing the EU's competition and single market rules in this important context."

According to the EU, the FNA plans to auction licences for frequencies to supply mobile internet access to rural areas, in accordance with the broadband initiative by the federal government, sometime in Q2/2010. This has provoked complaints from the smaller operators in Germany--E-Plus and O2--claiming that the auction would benefit the much larger incumbent mobile operators, Vodafone and T-Mobile.

The FNA apparently plans to award only three 20MHz blocks of frequencies in the 800MHz, meaning one operator will be excluded. While this has aggrieved the smaller operators, T-Mobile and Vodafone have welcomed the move, with the latter adding that "we now hope that the auction will be actively pursued at the beginning of next year."

For more on this story:
Total Telecom
and Telegeography

Related stories:
Vodafone Germany tests LTE in digital dividend spectrum
French 'Digital Dividend' could set EU spectrum agenda
Germany planning 4G spectrum auction
UK planning one big 4G spectrum auction in 2010

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