German regulator to delay UMTS auction to 2009

24 Apr 2008

Germany’s telecoms regulator plans to delay until next year an auction for a second tranche of UMTS frequencies. The Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) had originally planned to hold the auction early this year, but said it was postponing the sale due to the ‘meticulous planning’ required to prepare the auction and to ensure it runs smoothly. Germany’s first 3G auction in 2000 drew criticism from cellcos because the amount of spectrum on offer was less than what they wanted. According to a BNetzA press release, there will be no technological restrictions on the use of the auctioned frequencies, so operators will be free to use them for WiMAX, 3G, BWA or any other manner which they see fit.

Matthias Kurth, head of the watchdog, said in 2007 that after meetings with interested parties, he had come to the conclusion that demand outsripped availability of frequencies available, and an auction would have to be held. He added that this time he did not expect prices to go stratospheric as they had done in 2000, when six operators spent a total of EUR51 billion (USD81 billion) on 3G concessions. Only four, T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2 Germany and E-Plus, ever launched services; Quam and Mobilcom subsequently scrapped their 3G rollout plans. Mobilcom returned its spectrum allocation, while Quam’s largest shareholder Telefonica Moviles held onto its licence, later returning to the 3G arena in January 2006 with its takeover of O2.