The Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy (MEACP) announced on its website yesterday (29 November 2023) that a court in Rotterdam has ruled in favour of the ministry in all eight lawsuits against the government’s 5G 3.5GHz spectrum band licensing plans, clearing a major hurdle to begin preparations for an auction to take place in 2024 – although the statement adds a cautionary note that plaintiffs may appeal the decisions. Details of proposed changes to the national frequency plan were opposed by the three main Dutch mobile operators KPN, Odido and VodafoneZiggo alongside prospective users of 3.5GHz local private networks including Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

Minister Micky Adriaansens stated: ‘It is good news for entrepreneurs and consumers that we can now continue with our ambitions in the field of digital mobile infrastructure. Because the Netherlands is now the very last EU country that can auction frequencies for 5G and that has frustrated technological progress and digital opportunities for all Dutch people.’ The statement added that concerned companies, organisations and telecoms operators have filed court cases against the MEACP’s 5G policy decisions based on ‘various interests’ which ‘vary so much that meeting everyone’s individual preferences is impossible’, and the MEACP has had to weigh up these interests, with the court agreeing that ‘[the ministry’s] choices and considerations are understandable and well substantiated’.

In advance of next year’s auction, two 50MHz blocks of 3500MHz spectrum are available from 1 December for localised private networks of companies and organisations, separate from the 300MHz tranche of 3.5GHz airwaves earmarked for the Netherlands’ 5G nationwide mobile licensing process, which the government hopes to launch in Q1 2024 having recently reached an agreement to relocate satellite services occupying the band.

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