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Netherlands kicks off 5G auction

The Dutch regulator has officially launched its 5G auction with KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile fighting for valuable assets in the 700, 1400 and 2100 MHz spectrum bands.

With a floor-price of €900 million, the Netherlands quest towards 5G might be able to start in earnest before too long. The auction will have to be concluded by August 1, but an earlier finish is much more likely here.

Although the 5G revolution has been lagging in the Netherlands, Vodafone has already said it has started offering services over its existing 4G network. Some might look at this approach with a healthy dose of scepticism, but this auction should right the wrongs and set the Netherlands on path towards connectivity Valhalla.

As part of the auction, telecoms operators will submit daily bids to licences, with no single company able to take more than 40% of the available licences in any band.

5G subscriptions forecast (thousands)
Country 2020 2021 2022
Netherlands 188 375 2,641
Germany 925 3,157 10,021
UK 3,590 12,522 25,302
France 221 3,401 10,099
Spain 687 3,590 8,227

Source: Omdia Knowledge Centre, World Information Series

Although being first to launch, and conversely last, is not necessarily a direct implication on success in the 5G economy, it does offer a head start. A scaled, nationwide network, with a full portfolio of spectrum assets available to operators, will dictate who wins and loses the economic battle in the long run.

This is where the Dutch might struggle. Network deployment is difficult, though without access to the valuable 3.5 GHz spectrum, which is being championed everywhere else, the telecoms operators will struggle to deliver the full 5G promise.

When asking Telecoms.com readers, just over 68% of the respondents to the survey said that without mid-band spectrum you will never have an attractive 5G offering. The 2.1 GHz spectrum which is available here is a good start, but the 3.5 GHz airwaves have been earmarked as more striking.

Thanks to legacy ground satellite systems in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band, the telecoms operators will have to wait to access these licences which offer a much more palatable compromise between download speed and coverage. The auction for this spectrum is not slated until early 2022, once the Dutch authorities can shift these operations to different airwaves.

That said, this is a step in the right direction, and many will be hoping the bidding does not get out of hand as it has in some other territories.

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