Cablecos prove disruptive force as European 4G auctions pile up
The European economies are really getting into the swing of LTE auctions now, with France and Spain the next major sales
Published: 29 June, 2011
However, current reports surprisingly omit TeliaSonera’s Spanish subsidiary Yoigo. This firm recently acquired new licenses in GSM bands 900MHz and 1.8GHz – which have been presented by the Spanish regulator as the first spectrum platform for LTE and which allow Yoigo better roaming capabilities. The attractive combination of 900MHz for rural coverage and 1.8GHz (an increasingly prominent LTE band) for urban capacity may mean that Yoigo will stay out of the LTE-specific auction. Market leaders Telefonica and Vodafone were barred from bidding for the first round of 900MHz and 1.8GHz licenses, which went to Orange and Yoigo for a total of €168m in total and will give them a 4G headstart. Further GSM licenses then went under the hammer for LTE refarming.
In France, TV provider Iliad/Free has also been creating ripples around a quad play to challenge incumbent Orange, but the closely watched auction may be delayed by legal disputes.
The country’s telecoms regulator, Arcep, will auction 2.6GHz and digital dividend (800MHz) licenses this year but is facing legal challenges from third cellco Bouygues Telecom. The operator has petitioned the French supreme court to intervene over the terms and conditions attached to the auction, claiming the proposals could cost mobile operators up to €1.7bn.
According to local newspaper Le Figaro, Bouygues has submitted its complaint to the French Council of State, amid concerns that winners of the 800MHz licenses will have to pay compensation to any viewers of digital terrestrial TV, who suffer interference from mobile signals.
This objection could halt the whole auction process and even force France to postpone the sales, in an echo of the serially delayed UK 2.6GHz spectrum sale, which has suffered legal challenges, mainly over redistribution of sub-1GHz assets. UK regulator Ofcom will be watching the result of Bouygues’ action carefully, since it has stated that “the majority of the costs” of coexistence between mobile broadband and digital TV “should be borne by future 800MHz licensees”.
Bouygues Telecom declined to comment on the report, but it is understood to believe that the French government should bear any costs of ensuring peaceful coexistence in the TV bands, or of compensating consumers affected by the changes.
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