5G spectrum auction raises EUR1.2bn

21 Jun 2022

Telecoms regulator the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) has announced that the main phase of the auction of new 5G spectrum (700MHz and 3600MHz) and existing 2G and 3G frequencies (900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz) has concluded after three weeks of bidding, raising more than EUR1.202 billion (USD1.264 billion) – some EUR468.5 million higher than the reserve price. In addition to the incumbent mobile operators Orange Belgium, Proximus and Telenet, two new entrants – Citymesh Mobile and IT services provider Network Research Belgium (NRB) – also succeeded in securing part of the available spectrum.

Proximus spearheaded the bidding, agreeing to pay a total of EUR491.1 million for a package of spectrum in the five bands, while Orange, Telenet and Citymesh also secured user rights to frequencies in the blocks, bidding EUR321.5 million, EUR264.4 million and EUR114.3 million respectively. NRB agreed to pay EUR10.97 million for a 20MHz block of 3600MHz spectrum. User rights will be valid for a period of 20 years, with the exception of frequencies in the 3600MHz band, which will expire on 6 May 2040.

Citymesh Mobile (owned by B2B networks provider Citymesh [51%] and RCS&RDS [49%], of which Digi Communications is the main shareholder) exercised an option at the end of March 2022 to obtain a reserved radio spectrum package of 30MHz duplex in the various radio frequency bands for both 5G and 2G, 3G and 4G applications against payment of EUR83.34 million, enabling it to enter the market with an adequate spectrum package. The three existing mobile operators also took up an option to acquire the radio spectrum reserved for them against payment of EUR73 million each, in order to guarantee the continuity of their current services.

The selected candidates must now submit to the BIPT no later than 5 July a common proposal per frequency band for the positioning of the various frequency blocks, failing which an extra round of bidding will take place. The BIPT will now organise a third procedure to allocate 90MHz of spectrum in the 1400MHz for a period of 20 years.