German spectrum auction stumbles; nine apply for Dutch frequencies

Having set the stage to become one of the first European countries to auction digital dividend spectrum, Germany's plans could be scuppered by legal action brought by two operators. E-Plus and O2 Germany are suing the regulator, BNetzA, and have asked for suspension of the 800MHz auction, even though such a decision could delay plans to deploy LTE and increase rural broadband access.

The two operators clam that the auction is structured in an anti-competitive manner that favours the largest operators, T-Mobile and Vodafone, which have already trialled LTE in the band. AD Scheepbouwer, CEO of E-Plus's parent company, KPN Holland, commented: "O2 Germany and ourselves will look at this jointly, because we are in the same boat. We both are being discriminated in the spectrum process and we need to look at all of our options."

E-Plus and O2 are also concerned that only three licences will be auctioned, meaning one of the four operators will lose out--and analysts believe the unlucky company might well exit the market altogether because it will be disadvantaged in spectrum terms, especially for rural coverage and LTE.

If the auction goes ahead, and, according to a report in Light Reading, the court does not have the authority to stop the process, then a total of 340MHz of spectrum in four bands--1.8GHz, 2GHz, 2.6GHz and 800MHz--would be sold.

Separately, nine companies have qualified to take part in the Dutch government's planned auction of 2.6GHz radio spectrum, due to start on 20 April 2010. The government's spectrum regulator Agentschap Telecom said it expects to issue the licences--which could be used either for WiMAX or LTE services--in May or early June.

The government hopes the tender will encourage at least three new service providers to enter the market. Of the total 190MHz make available, 135MHz is being set aside for new entrants. The present incumbent operators KPN Mobile, T-Mobile and Vodafone are subject to a spectrum cap.

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