German operators bid €288m as 5G auction starts behind closed doors

19 March 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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German mobile operators have bid €288 million in the first morning of bidding for 5G spectrum.

The Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur, BNetzA) is auctioning off 41 blocks of spectrum in the 2GHz and 3.6GHz bands – in a move that was nearly blocked as the three large operators, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone, went to law to stop the process.

A new entrant, United Internet’s 1&1 Drillisch, which owns cable networks and is a virtual mobile network operator, bid a reported €20 million in the early stages for 10 of the 41 blocks.

Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO of Vodafone Germany, posted on LinkedIn a picture of the door to the auction room (above). “Our bidding is made from this strictly secured auction room in Düsseldorf. I’ll go in there now. Unfortunately, my mobile must stay outside.”

The sign on the door – “Zutritt strengstens verboten!” – means “Access strictly prohibited”.

Winning bidders will have to provide high-speed coverage to 98% of German households in only three years, with speeds reaching 300Mbps by the end of 2025. Victorious operators will also have to share network access. BNetzA also wants all German motorways to have 5G coverage of at least 100Mbps by 2022.