The Netherlands took another step towards its planned 5G 3.5GHz mobile spectrum licence auction yesterday with the publication of amendments to the National Frequency Plan. As previously proposed, the licence auction is scheduled for 1 December 2023, and Minister of Economic Affairs & Climate Micky Adriaansens said upon publishing her decision: ‘The Netherlands not only has an EU obligation to make this frequency band available for national mobile communication as quickly as possible. I also think it is important for the development of our digital infrastructure,’ while also noting that ‘data traffic is increasing sharply and the construction of improved networks such as 5G is essential for consumers and companies.’

Alongside a 300MHz tranche of the 3.5GHz band for national mobile networks, the Minister has decided to ‘provisionally’ allocate two 50MHz blocks at the lower and upper end of the band (3400MHz-3450MHz and 3750MHz-3800MHz) for local wireless applications (used by enterprises, for example), a plan which according to the government statement supports the allocation of the national mobile frequencies ‘in the shortest possible time.’

The plan involves relocation of satellite operator Inmarsat’s international emergency/safety shipping/aviation communication operations from the Netherlands to Greece, which the Dutch government hopes will occur by 1 January 2024, but if Inmarsat’s new Greek facilities are not operational by that date the satellite company will retain access to a limited (80MHz) block in the 3.5GHz range. The Dutch National Frequency Plan amendment decision states that: ‘All efforts are aimed at achieving [the Inmarsat relocation], including by monitoring the progress of the migration and maintaining contact with the Greek authorities about the licensing process in Greece. If, despite all efforts, due to unforeseen circumstances, the target date is not met, Inmarsat will not be forced to leave the 3.5GHz band prematurely.’

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that all three Dutch mobile network operators provide 5G services with national scope but require the 3.5GHz airwaves to support upcoming developments including Standalone (SA) 5G services. VodafoneZiggo was the first to launch 5G commercially in April 2020 via Dynamic Spectrum Sharing technology, followed three months later by T-Mobile and KPN courtesy of the country’s auction of 5G 700MHz band spectrum.

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