Spanish ministry unveils winners of spectrum auction

1 Aug 2011

Nine of the eleven bidders approved by Spain’s Ministerio de Industria, Turismo y Comercio (MITYC) to take part in the government’s auction of 58 blocks of mobile spectrum totalling 270MHz have walked away with frequencies, the regulator has revealed. With the sale process now having closed, the MITYC has released a full list of the winners, detailing the prices paid and spectrum won, also revealing that in total the nine winning bidders spent a total of EUR1.65 billion (USD2.37 billion) on the spectrum that was up for grabs.

Local telecoms giant Telefonica emerged as the biggest spender, committing EUR668.31 million for two lots of 2×5MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band, a single 2×5MHz block in the 900MHz band and two lots of 2×10MHz in the 2600MHz band. UK-based Vodafone Group’s local subsidiary, Vodafone Spain, meanwhile spent the second-largest amount in the auction, paying out EUR517.59 million for a total of 60MHz of new frequencies across the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands; the cellco bagged two 2×5MHz spectrum blocks in the 800MHz, alongside a total of 40MHz in the 2600MHz band. Vodafone noted that the new frequencies would enable it to ‘provide its customers with enhanced mobile internet services across the country, including in rural areas,’ with the spectrum award expected to help support the cellco’s plans to introduce Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. Vodafone Spain also confirmed, in the wake of the auction, that it plans to start offering 3G mobile internet access to customers in rural areas by the end of this year, having gained approval from the government to refarm spectrum in the 900MHz band, which it currently uses for 2G service. Orange Espana rounded out the larger winners of the auction, agreeing to pay EUR437.04 million for a total of 20MHz in the 800MHz band and 40MHz in the 2600MHz band.

Alongside the aforementioned trio, other operators to acquire new frequencies were: alternative telecoms operator Jazztel, which won 20MHz in the 2600MHz band in three specific regions of the country for EUR6.03 million; Basque Country-based telco Euskaltel, which paid EUR2.42 million for 20MHz in the 2600MHz band in Pais Vasco; Grupo Corporativo ONO, Spain’s largest cable operator by subscribers, which spent EUR13.30 million on 20MHz in the 2600MHz band in nine regions of the country; WiMAX operator Telecom Castilla la Mancha (20MHz in the 2600MHz band in Castilla-La-Mancha for EUR598,034); R Cable (20MHz in the 2600MHz band in Galicia for EUR1.02 million); and Telecable (20MHz in the 2600MHz band in Asturias for EUR708,317). The two companies to walk away empty-handed were Public Works and Telecommunications Navarra, and the Consortium of Advanced Telecommunications (COTA).

Under the terms of the auction process, the 800MHz ‘digital dividend’ spectrum is expected to become available in 2014, once the switchover from analogue to all-digital TV broadcasting in Spain has been fully completed. Frequencies in the 2600MHz band meanwhile are available for immediate use.