LTE auction roundup: Finland starts 800-MHz process, Ireland raises €855m and UK mulls 700-MHz

Auctions of spectrum that can be used for LTE services are gathering pace in Europe as Finland kicks off a new auction for 800-MHz spectrum, Ireland completed its auction process for three frequency bands and the UK considers releasing spectrum in the 700-MHz band following its spectrum auction in January.

Finland is hoping to raise more than €100 million from the sale of 800-MHz spectrum and plans to start to auction on Jan. 24, 2013. Registration is open and all bidders have until Dec. 17to submit their registrations. The available 2x30 MHz of spectrum will be split into 2x5 MHz blocks and each participant will be permitted to acquire a maximum of three blocks, reported Total Telecom.

Finland has already sold spectrum in the 2.6-GHz band and several mobile operators have launched commercial LTE services. The country's government now hopes that the superior propagation characteristics of the 800-MHz band will enable operators to increase coverage in the country.

Finland's move came just after Ireland raised €854.64 million from the sale of spectrum in the 1800-MHz and 900-MHz bands, as well as in the 800-MHz digital dividend band, according to a report in Reuters. Vodafone Ireland bought the largest share of the spectrum, paying €160.85 million upfront for bandwidth in all three bands. Telefonica Ireland and Meteor Mobile both agreed to pay over €100 million for spectrum. 3 Ireland is paying €51.14 million for 900-MHz and 1800-MHz spectrum but did not buy any 800-MHz spectrum.

The UK, meanwhile, has confirmed that its auction of 800-MHz and 2.6-GHz spectrum will start in January with licences set to be issued in February or March 2013. The UK spectrum auction, which could raise up to £4 billion, will allow other operators beside EE to offer LTE services on the UK market. However, UK regulator Ofcom has said it is already considering making 700-MHz spectrum available to mobile operators to meet growing demand for mobile data and to support future mobile services.

The regulator has warned that the UK could face a 'capacity crunch' in the coming years. "Unless action is taken, we're going to have a problem," said Ed Richards, Ofcom CEO.

For more:
- see this Total Telecom article
- see this Reuters article
- see this FT article

Related articles:
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LTE's early benefits hindered by obstacles, according to Economist study
UK operators form JV to clear 800 MHz for rapid LTE launch
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Mallinson: Consumer interests should trump fairness in UK LTE launch