Massive German Frequency Auction Starts April 12

April 12, 2010 is a date to watch for one of the biggest spectrum auctions to start in terms of MHz and frequency bands Germany has ever had (source in German). There was lots of speculation on who will qualify to bid. It was feared that too much competition would drive prices once more beyond anything that could reasonably be earned later. In the meantime, the number of companies that are allowed to bid by the German regulator went down from six to the already existing four mobile network operators. Still, competition might be intense, especially in the 800 MHz digital dividend band where only 2 x 30 MHz are available (1x for uplink and 1x for downlink, 790 – 862 MHz). Not enough spectrum for 4 operators there, as 2 x 10 MHz is seen by many as the smallest bandwidth that makes sense from an economical and also from an end user speed point of view. In addition to the digital dividend band there's the spectrum in the following bands to be auctioned off (source in German):

  • 2 x 15 MHz of bandwidth (1710-1725 and 1805-1820 MHz) to in the 1800 MHz band that is so far only used for GSM but open now also for other technologies.
  • 2 x 20 MHz in the 2100 MHz band, which is used for UMTS today. The bandwidth was already auctioned off back in 2000 but the two companies that had the spectrum never launched a  network. Bidders in this domain will use the extra spectrum to either increase their HSPA throughput or put LTE in the additional spectrum. There's also 5 MHz of unpaired spectrum to be given away, let's see who's interested in that!?
  • And then there is also the IMT-2000 extension band in the 2600 MHz range with 2 x 70 MHz of bandwidth, most likely to be used for LTE.

Lots of combinations so it will be interesting to see who wants what, who wins what and who will do what with their acquired spectrum.

3 thoughts on “Massive German Frequency Auction Starts April 12”

  1. Are all these spectrum within the current mobile phone radio specs or will they require new hardware? Clearly LTE requires new hardware but if the spectrum owners use UMTS, will they work with existing phones?

  2. Afaik there’s only hardware for GSM at 1800 and UMTS at 2100 MHz available. The 2600 MHz band has been specified for UMTS (as “band VII” or “IMT-e”), but I haven’t seen appropriate hardware yet.
    All three aforementioned bands are part of the LTE-specifications, but it will take a while until hardware becomes available on a commercial scale. Especially the lack of terminals will last a while.
    However the 800 MHz band still hasn’t been specified for any standard.

    So I expect the 2100 MHz blocks to be used to extend UMTS capacity and perhaps the 1800 MHz band for GSM-extension while the other bands will be unused until LTE is being rolled out.

    Another issue, which I hope will be solved with LTE-terminals, is the limited multiband capability of current 3G devices. Except for Sierra Wireless’ MC8795V datacard, there is no 3G device available with support for more than three 3G-frequency bands. I hope one will manage to get a couple more of frequencies into LTE-devices in order to maintain intercontinental roaming capability, as LTE will be scattered over so many bands (probably even 3-4 per one country in some cases).

  3. NTT DoCoMo is deploying LTE at 2.1 GHz, so hardware for that combination will exist as well.

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