Netherlands to auction spectrum in late-2011/early 2012, paper says

10 Dec 2010

The Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands has published its ‘Strategic Mobile Communications Paper’ detailing its aim to auction mobile spectrum in the 800MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands by the end of next year, or in early 2012 at the latest. Telecompaper reports that the licensing terms and conditions will allow existing operators – KPN Mobile, T-Mobile and Vodafone – to take part, as well as issuing 60MHz of paired spectrum in the Digital Dividend. It is understood the new licences will run until 2030. In addition, the Dutch authorities have reserved 2×10MHz in the 800MHz band for newcomers (such as Ziggo and Tele2 Netherlands), with the hope that at least one newcomer will be able to enter the market.

In 2015 a number of IMT2000 concessions will also be auctioned off, each lot comprising a block of 2×5MHz (paired) and 1×5MHz (unpaired) spectrum, and each coming with the same rollout obligations as the country’s 2600MHz licences. The paper also claims that the remaining spectrum in the 2100MHz and 2600MHz bands will also be sold off, and that the 3G spectrum formerly held by Telfort will be reallocated until 31 December 2016, before being re-auctioned again along with the aforementioned UMTS spectrum.

Some of the 800MHz frequencies still to be auctioned are currently in use by companies such as Dutch public broadcaster Digitenne, and users of wireless microphones. The ministry is exploring alternative options for these groups, possibly including a phased switchover period, but it expects that the band will be available for use in 2013. Finally, the ministry has laid out a list of principles governing the planned auctions:

• There will be no spectrum caps for individual bids, although there is a reservation on spectrum in the 800MHz band

• Bidding groups can get a mix of ‘high’ and ‘low’ spectrum

• Usage requirements will be set up to guard against market speculation and strategic purchasing

• The ministry will allow spectrum transfers and cooperation within the terms of the licence conditions

• Joint infrastructure agreements and national roaming will also be allowed

• Unlike the nation’s 2600MHz auction, there will be an ‘emergency brake procedure’ in place

• Returned or revoked spectrum will be reallocated faster thanks to what it calls a distribution on demand (VOA) clause

• The 3500MHz band and additional spectrum in the 700MHz range have not yet been valued; and

• The next distribution timetable has been provisionally scheduled for 2028 and 2033 (2100MHz).