Bulgaria's 5G auction raises US$8.1 million

08 April 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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Bulgaria has concluded its 5G spectrum auction in a single day, raising US$8.1 million for the state.

Confirmed by the telecoms regulator, the auction included seven rounds and saw all three operators secure frequency spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band with national coverage for a period of 20 years.

The initial price of each permit was set at US$2.43 million (4 million levs).

Vivacom, acquired by United Group in 2019, was awarded the 3700–3800MHz band for 4.6 million levs. The PPF-owned Telenor Bulgaria was granted One authorization for the radio frequency band 3500–3600 MHz for 4.1 million levs and A1 took the 3600–3700 MHz band for 4.7 million levs.

Vivacom and A1 have already launched 5G services with temporary frequencies prior to the auction and Telenor Bulgaria has held 5G trials.

Bulgaria's Communication Regulation Commission (CRC) originally planned to award 5G spectrum without an auction, however, this was challenged in the courts earlier this year by Vivacom. It contested the original licence award plan announced by the CRC which intended to grant each of the country's three major operators a 3.6 GHz licence after reviewing applications.

The legal challenge saw the auction officially suspended and a new date announced. At the time, CRC head Ivan Dimitrov told Reuters: "The regulator decided to amend its decision to speed up the process and avoid lengthy court proceedings.”

Taking a lead from the US, Bulgaria blocked Huawei and ZTE network equipment from its 5G infrastructure in October of last year.