Germany to auction massive 340MHz of '4G' spectrum

The roll-out of mobile broadband spectrum is gathering pace in Europe, with the UK set to overcome legal challenges and open up its 2.6GHz band after the summer, and Germany planning to sell off a huge 340MHz of spectrum, though the date is not yet set.

German regulator BNetzA has been in favor of opening up large swathes of spectrum for wireless broadband for some time, as seen in its plans to extend the 3.5GHz band upwards as far as 3.8GHz. For '4G', it is offering a huge amount of spectrum - five times more than it auctioned for 3G - but in different frequencies, so operators will have to decide in advance which band they favor, or adopt multiband strategies to maximise capacity.

With licenses to be available in low frequency 'digital dividend' spectrum in 790MHz to 862MHz, as well as higher bands (1.8GHz, 2GHz and 2.6GHz), the latter may be an attractive option to an operator with sufficiently deep pockets, to cover both urban and rural areas at the greatest cost efficiency.

According to Unstrung, the auction date has not yet been decided, and the regulator will launch a consultation this summer on how the spectrum will be divided up, and the rules that will be applied to it in key issues such as technology and application neutrality, and division between TDD and FDD (a rule that will partly decide whether there will be a major WiMAX opportunity here alongside LTE). The schedule would seem to point to a sale in late 2009 or the first half of 2010 - assuming no legal challenges like those in the UK arise.

These ambitious plans make Germany the second European country to allow 4G operations in 1.8GHz, to supplement the main 2.6GHz band. Finland made this move recently, giving additional 1.8GHz frequencies to 3G operators TeliaSonera, Elisa and DNA for LTE. However, Finnish operators may have problems getting their hands on digital dividend licenses, which should be important for their vast rural areas, because there will be interference with the Russian aeronautical navigation system used on the Finnish border.

Rethink Wireless