The QUAM Story

Whenever I look at how the mobile space has developed in the US and how it could be so different to Europe, I easily forget that over here, very strange and incomprehensible things have happened as well. A very good case in point was the UMTS action a decade ago that yielded a total of around 50 billion Euros in spectrum license fees to the German government from the 6 winners of the auction.

While the 4 incumbents subsequently built their UMTS networks, the two new entries spectacularly failed and not only lost all those billions spend on licenses but also the little money that was left after the auction for actually building the networks. And it's not that the backers of those two newcomers should not have known better as those were Telefonica (Spain), Sonera (Finalnd) and France Telecom. The story of Quam, backed by Telefonica and Sonera can be found in this recent article. Google offers a handy translation to English here.

The article is very informative but I still have the same questions I had before: How could they have spent all those billions and then run out of money… Incomprehensible.

2 thoughts on “The QUAM Story”

  1. The Quam story is still ongoing – the company is still in existance, and has recently been transfered internally within telefonica. The prospectus related to the recent flotation of “Telefonica Deutschland Holding AG” (see has some interesting facts and figures about the Quam business.

    I think Telefonica still manage to make significant tax savings from the losses generated by Quam, so the money lost 10 years ago isn’t all wasted!

  2. The problem with Quam and Mobilcom was that the financial backing had been withdrawn in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble which bursted only after the auction. By that time Mobilcom had already deployed 900 NodeBs throught Germany which were later sold to eplus in 2003.
    Anyway I doubt these two carriers would have survived with just some 2100MHz spectrum and the run for mobile Internet commencing almost a decade later than originally anticipated.

    The involved companies may still exist on paper an serve as shell corporation for whatever purpose, but their assets, i.e. the 3G licenses together with their spectrum, are definitely gone.

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