Norway postpones 1800 MHz auction for an indefinite period

The Norwegian Post and Telecommunications Authority (NPT) postponed its planned auction of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band due to the uncertainties caused by TeliaSonera's plan to buy Tele2 Norway.

An auction of three available blocks in the 1800 MHz band was originally scheduled for January 2015, but the NPT now plans to wait until the acquisition of Tele2 Norway has been approved in order to ascertain what market changes this merger might bring.

The regulator noted that TeliaSonera's plan to acquire Tele2 Norway from the Swedish Tele2 group for an enterprise value of SEK5.1 billion (€548 million/$735 million) could bring about possible changes in the market situation that "will be of great significance for several of the potential bidders in the auction." The NPT added that these factors should be clarified before the 1800 MHz auction is held, and said it will publish a new schedule for the auction at a later date.

Tele2 agreed to sell Tele2 Norway to TeliaSonera in July this year despite previously appearing to secure the future of the business through a national 2G, 3G and LTE roaming deal with rival Telenor.

At the time, Tele2 said the transaction followed a strategic review of its Norwegian business prompted by its failure to acquire an LTE licence and additional 3G spectrum during Norway's auction of spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands in December 2013.

The acquisition is subject to approval from the Norwegian Competition Authorities, and Tele2 and TeliaSonera said they expect the deal to be finalised in the first quarter of 2015 at the latest.

The possible return to a duopoly in Norway, whose mobile market could be carved up between TeliaSonera and Telenor if the Tele2 Norway deal is approved, has provoked considerable criticism, however.

When the deal was first announced, Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of Nordic consultancy Northstream, said the sale "is the predictable result of a pretty miserable and failed spectrum licensing process, which has resulted in pretty dramatic consolidation".

Nonetheless, there could still yet be a new entrant on the market in the form of Access Industries' Telco Data, which secured spectrum during the December auction.

For more:
- see this NPT release (in Norwegian)

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