Government at loggerheads with TV stations over mobile broadband frequencies

15 Jun 2011

According to Bloomberg, Italy’s long-mooted auction for frequencies in the 800MHz band – which is scheduled for September 2011 – has been cast into doubt by the domestic TV stations’ reluctance to free up the relevant frequencies. As things stand, broadcasters have been allocated around 10% of the proceeds of the spectrum sale as compensation for freeing the spectrum, but Filippo Rebecchini, chairman of Italy’s Radio Television Association, has indicated that the government would need to double its offer to convince the 100-plus broadcasters that his group represents to vacate their sought-after frequencies. Rebecchini commented: ‘Without an accord, the frequencies won’t be free in time for the auction. First they should free up the spectrum, then sell it. You can get a lot more for a vacant house than for one with a tenant’.

Meanwhile, speaking in Rome, Corrado Calabro, head of telecoms regulator AGCOM, insisted that the spectrum auction ‘can’t be postponed’ as a delay would lead to a ‘dead end’ with mobile broadband providers unable to cope with the ‘exponential traffic growth’. For his part, Calabro urged the government to increase the compensation that it is willing to offer local broadcasters to free the spectrum. Enzo Savarese, commissioner of AGCOM, observed that the Italian government ‘wants the money first, and that’s the big issue between the telecoms operators and the government. The operator would like to have the frequencies at the same time or at least pay in instalments’. The Italian government hopes to raise approximately EUR2.4 billion (USD3.5 billion) from the sale to aid the country’s deficit-reduction measures.