When the UMTS licenses were auctioned in Europe back in 2000, new and old network operators in some countries spent enormous amounts of money in license auctions. In Germany for example, the record sum of 50 billion euros was paid by six companies. These days there's a new round coming up or has already taken place for frequencies in the 2.6 GHz band, foreseen to be the main band for the launch of LTE. Interestingly enough, they were sold pretty cheaply in Nordic countries. According to IntoMobile, Finland just sold the licenses for 3.8 million euros. Norway and Sweden's process is already over as well and the proceedings brought 25 and 230 million euros respectively.
I don't know much about the terms and conditions of these auctions but it looks like this time around, things were a bit more realistic. Even when taking the 230 million euros paid in Sweden and adapt it to the number of people living in Germany, it would still 'only' have been 2 billion euros. A tiny fraction of the 50 billion for the UMTS licenses. I hope all players in other countries are as sensible when it comes to new spectrum auctions. After all, have you seen where those 50 billion euros went in Germany after the auction?