The Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy announced yesterday (21 July 2020) the completion of the country’s 5G multi-band licence auction, distributing nationwide 700MHz, 1400MHz and 2100MHz spectrum under 20-year concessions to the three participants, incumbent mobile operators KPN, T-Mobile Netherlands and VodafoneZiggo, for a total price of EUR1.232 billion (USD1.414 billion). The auction, which started on 29 June, resulted in the allocation of: 2×30MHz in the 700MHz band (new mobile broadband spectrum previously allocated mainly for digital TV); 1×40MHz in the 1400MHz ‘L-band’ (new spectrum for ‘supplemental downlink’ useable only in conjunction with other frequencies); and 2×60MHz in the 2100MHz band (in existing mobile use, originally issued under 3G UMTS licences).
The Ministry’s subordinate agency Agentschap Telecom confirmed that the three cellcos each won 2×10MHz in the 700MHz band. In the 1400MHz band KPN and VodafoneZiggo each bought 1×15MHz, with T-Mobile picking up 1×10MHz. In the 2100MHz band, all three will receive 2×20MHz. KPN paid a total of EUR415.87 million, compared to VodafoneZiggo’s total bids of EUR415.76 million and T-Mobile’s EUR400.08 million.
The multi-round auction for 26 licence blocks consisted of a 90-round primary phase followed by an allocation round enabling participants to bid an additional amount for their preferred frequency ranges. 700MHz and 1400MHz concessions will take effect immediately while the 2100MHz licences are valid from early 2021 after expiry of current and transition licences enabling the cellcos to switch to their new frequency schemes.
The new licensing carries obligations to ensure mobile coverage of ‘98% of the surface area of every Dutch municipality’ and to comply with minimum mobile data speeds ‘on the outer edges of a mobile network’: minimum requirements for these ‘worst points’ are set at 8Mbps in 2022 and 10Mbps in 2026. The government says that these requirements will mean an average mobile internet speed of above 100Mbps across the Netherlands. An auction for 3.5GHz 5G spectrum is expected in early 2022.