Spain raises €42 million auctioning 20 MHz

23 February 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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The Spanish divisions of Orange and Telefonica split the 20 MHz of additional 5G spectrum auctioned in Spain yesterday, each spending €21 million.

The operators took 10 MHz each in the 3.5 GHz band.

Following the auction, across Spain, Orange remains the largest 3.5 GHz spectrum holder with a new total of 110 MHz, Telefonica Espana comes in second at 100 MHz, followed by Vodafone at 90 MHz and MásMóvil at 80 MHz.

In January, Spain's Ministry of Economic Affairs confirmed that it would auction 20 MHz of frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band for the deployment of 5G networks before the end of this month. The ministry said this auction would allow it to reorganise the band so that all operators have contiguous blocks to fully support 5G technology. That work can now begin.

Orange is the operator with the largest amount of spectrum in 3.5 GHz in Spain – as well as its native France – and the additional spectrum means it will exceed 90% 5G coverage in 2022 thanks to the combination of 5G NSA and DSS technologies.

Its 5G technology is already available in 121 towns in 38 provinces, with a coverage of 15% of the total population in Spain, due to rise to 51% this year.

Orange said: "With the €21 million paid today to acquire the concession of an additional 10 MHz, Orange will have dedicated a total of €173 million to spectrum, which is arguably the most efficient investment in the market for this purpose."

However, El Pais reported on Sunday that Orange Spain's chief executive Jean-François Fallacher, believes the prices are too high.

Commenting on the auction scheduled for March, Fallacher said if the government reduced the current asking price for 5G frequencies of €1.17 billion ($1.42 billion) it might better encourage investment in the sector.

“Recently, the Secretary of State for Telecommunications, Roberto Sánchez, suggested (the government) may review that price. This is something we celebrate as we consider the conditions subject to public consultation to be excessively demanding."

Saying the telecoms sector in Spain is "excessively taxed", he added: “We have always said that this auction should not have an objective that could compromise the investments necessary for the 5G deployment.”

Spain's last auction in this band was held in 2018, when 200 MHz of frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band were tendered.