Spain plans 2.6 GHz spectrum auction in coming weeks

Spain plans to launch an auction of frequencies in the 2.6 GHz band in the coming weeks to enable the market's four mobile network operators to further improve 4G network coverage.

Reuters reported that Spain's Ministry of Industry made the announcement at a telecoms conference organised by industry association Ametic this week, although details of the planned spectrum auction have not yet been revealed.

Frequencies in the 2.6 GHz band would be attractive to mobile operators that want to improve coverage in urban areas, for example. Spain last carried out a 4G spectrum auction in 2011, when it raised a total of almost €1.82 billion ($2 billion) from the sale of 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz frequencies in two rounds. Telefónica, Orange Spain, Vodafone Spain and TeliaSonera-owned Yoigo all took part in the auction and each picked up blocks in the various bands.

Spain's mobile operators also used the conference as a platform to voice their concerns over regulation in Europe, calling for a single Europe-wide regulation of the sector to avoid preferential treatment for content providers such as Facebook and Google.

Telefónica COO Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete stressed the need to speed up the regulatory decision-making process in Europe, noting that it took the European Commission (EC) a year to approve the Spanish group's acquisition of E-Plus from KPN in Germany. In contrast, said Alvarez-Pallete, Facebook was given the nod to buy WhatsApp in just three weeks.

Gervais Pellissier, who heads Orange Group's European operations, and outgoing Vodafone Europe CEO Philipp Humm also called for a more "cohesive" approach to spectrum, saying that rules and spectrum regulators should be European rather than national. For example, spectrum management becomes particularly difficult in border areas because of different rules in neighbouring countries.

The EC's proposed Digital Single Market strategy will seek to introduce common rules for radio spectrum across the European Union, although it remains a sensitive issue for member states.

For more:
- see this EurActiv report on spectrum harmonisation
- see this Reuters article
- see this related Reuters article (in Spanish)

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