Estonia’s Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) has released a list of competitors for its upcoming spectrum auction, including Lithuania’s Bite
According to the TTJA, four mobile operators have applied to bid for the three 5G spectrum licences being made available in Estonia’s upcoming auction.
Each licence will offer a 130MHz block in the 3.5GHz spectrum band, with a reserve price for these licences is set at €1.6 million.
All three of Estonia’s existing mobile players – Telia, Elisa, and Tele2 – have confirmed their intention to take part, with Lithuania’s Bite also ready to compete.
"I am glad the competition has attracted four participants, including a newcomer. This demonstrates that telecoms take a keen interest in developing the Estonian market and gives us confidence that 5G services will hit the market as soon as possible," said Estonia’s Minister of Entrepreneurship and IT, Andres Sutt, in a press release.
Bite’s participation in the auction should come as little surprise. The already provides pay-TV services in Estonia and have said since at least February last year that it has aspirations of expanding into the country’s mobile market via the upcoming spectrum auction.
If Bite does win a mobile spectrum licence at auction, the company has hinted that it would also be interested in expanding its operations into Estonia’s fixed broadband market too, if suitable acquisitions could be made.
The spectrum auction itself has been a long time coming.
The TTJA first announced the auction back in February 2019. Like so many spectrum auctions around the world, Estonia’s 5G auction was delayed, at least in part by the onset of the coronavirus in 2020. However, it was, in fact, clashes between the regulator and the telecoms industry that caused the majority of the auction’s delay, centred primarily around the numerous amendments to Estonia’s Electronic Communications Act and disputes over the number of licences to be made available.
In fact, back in June, the TTJA had announced that four 5G licences would be being made available, following complaints from the industry that a three-licence structure was giving the country’s incumbent operators an advantage over potential new entrants.
Tele2 even suggested that the government create a single nationwide 5G network that would offer wholesale services to existing operators – a model currently being explored in Malaysia with lacklustre results.
Ultimately, however, TTJA settled on just three licences after the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications argued that splitting the available spectrum equally between four players would limit the quality of services each operator could subsequently provide.
The auction will begin in earnest within a week, so whether Estonia will have a fourth mobile player will soon be revealed.
The licences are expected to be formally issued in June following the auction’s conclusion.