The latest reports suggest that the Spanish government will auction 26 GHz spectrum between the end of 2021 and early 2022
Compared to some of their European neighbours, Spain’s journey with allocating 5G spectrum has been relatively straightforward, but it has not been without hurdles.
In 2018, the Spanish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation awarded spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, a move which allowed Vodafone to launch the nation’s first 5G services in June 2019, with their rivals following close behind. This made Spain one of the earliest adopters of 5G in Europe.
While the 5G networks of Vodafone, Orange, Masmovil, and Telefonica all grew steadily over the following two years, expanding their spectrum holdings was a much slower process. A 700 MHz band auction was initially scheduled to take place in early 2020, but the onset of the coronavirus saw the process delayed. Before the process could reinitiate, disagreements between the regulator and the operators regarding pricing and conditions saw the regulator push back the process yet further.
By May of 2021, the regulator had lowered the reserve price on the spectrum by 15% in an effort to drive up interest, as well as removing obligations for the winning operators to grant third-party operators access to their infrastructure.
The auction finally took place in July, having been delayed for 18 months. The highly coveted 700 MHz spectrum raised over a billion euros for the government, minorly exceeding expectations.
Notably, Masmovil did not participate
in the auction, having been one of the parties most critical of the regulator’s rules for the auction. The operator is currently in the process of acquiring Spain’s fifth-place operator Euskratel and had asked the regulator to delay the auction until the merger was completed. It had also asked the regulator to reserve part of the spectrum at a reasonable price for operators without frequencies in low bands or to divide up the blocks on a regional basis.
These requests ultimately were ultimately not met, with the regulator loathe to delay the auction any longer.
Now, with low-band and mid-band 5G spectrum auctioned, reports suggest that high-band, mmWave 5G spectrum could be auctioned as early as the end of this year.
Citing comments from the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Intelligent Infrastructures, Roberto Sánchez, the Europa Press said that the government was currently working out the details for the 26 GHz auction, expecting the process to take place later this year or early next year.
According to the report, it seems likely that some of the 26 GHz spectrum will be reserved for shared use by industrial players.
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