Trio snap up Swiss spectrum

23 Feb 2012

Switzerland’s telecoms regulator the Federal Communication Commission (ComCom) has announced the results of the auction re-allocating frequencies on licences due to expire, as well as currently unused spectrum. Orange Switzerland, Swisscom and Sunrise took part in the tender; In&Phone applied but did not meet the admission criteria. Conspicuous by its absence was Liberty Global subsidiary Cablecom, which has begun offering quad-play services through a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement, and had been considered a likely contender. In total there were eleven categories, including the 800MHz ‘digital dividend’ frequencies due to become available in January next year, the existing 900MHz bands currently in use (though existing licences expire at end-2013). Also up for grabs were the vacant 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands relinquished by the defunct Tele2 and 3G Mobile operations, as well as the current UMTS concessions due to run out at the end of 2016.

Orange Switzerland spent CHF154.7 million (USD169.6 million) and scooped up 10MHz in the 900MHz range, 50MHz in the 1800MHz band and a further 40MHz in the 2.1GHz and 2.GHz bands. For the auction ComCom split the 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz frequencies into two categories, one for Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and one for Time Division Duplex (TDD); the spectrum won by Orange in the aforementioned bands was all in the FDD category. Whilst Swisscom spent less than Orange, it acquired by far the most spectrum, spending CHF359.85 million on 30MHz in the 900MHz band, 60MHz in each of the 1800MHz and 2.1GHz (FDD) bands, 40MHz in the 2.6GHz (FDD) range and 45MHz in the 2.6GHz (TDD) band. Meanwhile Sunrise purchased concessions for 30MHz in the 900MHz band, 40MHz in the 1800MHz band, with a further 20MHz and 50MHz in the 2.1GHz (FDD) and 2.6GHz (FDD) ranges respectively. Sunrise’s allocations cost CHF481.7 million. All three telcos also received use of 20MHz each in the 800MHz band.

In a press release, Sunrise commented that its success in the auction paved the way for it to upgrade its networks to Dual Carrier HSPA+ (DC-HSPA+), enabling higher downlink speeds of up to 84Mbps. Sunrise added that it would be forging ahead with its plans to roll out a 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service. The cellco expects to begin testing the platform over the next few months, and will begin upgrading its base stations by the end of the year.