Austria’s Telekom Control Kommission (TKK) has launched an auction for four new blocks of mobile phone spectrum in the GSM-900 and GSM-1800 frequency ranges. The four tranches, which comprise two lots of 2 × 3.2Mhz, and one lot each of 2 × 3Mhz and 2 × 2Mhz, have been allocated a combined minimum purchase price of EUR894,000 by the TKK, with interested parties given until 16 September to submit their bids. The regulator is planning to award the new frequencies in November 2004.
The TKK is hoping that the additional wireless spectrum will help Austria’s mobile operators improve the quality of their service offerings. The sector is home to four main players – Mobilkom Austria, T-Mobile (formerly max.mobil), Connect Austria and tele.ring, which between them had 7.41 million subscribers at the end of March 2004, a mobile penetration rate of 91%, up from 7.28 million three months previously and 6.76 million at the end of 2002. Mobilkom Austria, a wholly owned subsidiary of national PTO Telekom Austria, led the way with 3.17 million customers, comfortably ahead of its nearest rival T-Mobile, which boasted 2.012 million connections at the same date.
The main focus in the market over the past year has been the provision of 3G services. In November 2000 all four GSM licensees were awarded 3G licences, along with newcomers Hutchison 3G and 3G Mobile (the latter backed by Spanish operator Telefónica). Mobilkom Austria soft launched the country’s – and indeed Europe’s – first 3G network in September 2002, and began offering the technology commercially the following April. Hutchison 3G and Connect Austria followed a month later by launching test services and have since initiated full service offerings, with the former boasting 25,000 3G customers at the end of March 2004, but tele.ring and T-Mobile have yet to launch. 3G Mobile, however, failed to meet the 2002 launch date stipulated in its licence, and in August 2003 revealed that it was considering one of three options: handing the licence back to the government, keeping it – but paying a fine for failing to meet its rollout deadline – or selling it on. In January 2004, it was announced that the last was Telefónica’s preferred option, with the company agreeing to sell the licence to Mobilkom.