As the 2020 target date of the EU Action Plan to launch 5G services in Europe is fast approaching, several Member States are taking further steps towards deployment.
On 12th June, the German National Regulatory Authority ("BNetzA") announced that the national 5G auction came to an end with a final total amount of €6.55 billion offered by the four bidders. Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Germany paid €2.17 billion and €1.88 billion, respectively. The other two successful bidders are Telefonica (€1.4 bn) and Drillisch (€1.1 bn). Obligations facing these four operations will now include fast internet coverage to at least 98% of German households and setting up one thousand 5G base stations by the end of 2022.
Other Member States which have concluded 5G auctions and allocated spectrum, or are close to doing so, include: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Sweden and UK (plus Norway outside the EU bloc). In Italy, for example, Vodafone launched 5G commercial services in five main Italian cities on 17th June and Telecom Italia launched last week in Rome and Turin.
Member States which have concluded the consultation phase and are either planning or launching auctions include: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia. In the case of France, the national regulator, ARCEP, published its guidelines on 11th June to clear not only the 3.5 GHz and the 26 GHz but also the 1.5 GHz band for 5G services, fixing the absolute deadline (renewal included) for the new licenses at 31st December 2022. This date is therefore consistent with the EU target of making the 1.5 GHz band available for mobile networks by 2023.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government has published its mobile policy paper setting out plans for 5G spectrum auctions in the country. The 700, 1,400 and 2,100 MHz bands auction is expected to take place at beginning 2020. The policy paper also sets out plans for the auction of the 3,500 MHz bands which require specific attention because this band still needs to be freed up.
In addition, specific legal issues have arisen regarding the allocation of spectrum in Romania and Estonia. The Romanian government is now moving towards a solution to the legal concerns that had delayed its organisation of an auction. The Ministry of Communications and Information Society has initiated an emergency procedure to repeal Ordinance 114, which the National Communications Authority (ANCOMS) had warned would lead to unnecessarily high starting prices for the spectrum auction. Finally, the Estonian auction of spectrum in the 3400-3800 MHz band has been temporarily suspended by a national court following a complaint concerning the auction rules.