The Dutch government will start next month to accept applications for participation in the country’s auction of frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band. The auction itself is expected to take place before the summer, so that mobile service providers can start using the frequencies for their 5G networks from 1 August. Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Micky Adriaansens informed Parliament about the proposed regulations for the auction. These cover the design of the process and the minimum proceeds.

The government noted that there is room for at least three telecom companies in the 3.5 GHz frequency band. Also, 2×50 MHz (of the total 400 MHz) will remain available for private, local 5G networks.

The plans can now move forward for the many-times postponed auction, after the Dutch government won various legal appeals in November against its proposals. Lawsuits had been filed by VodafoneZiggo, Odido and KPN, plus local users Schiphol, the Port of Rotterdam and ECT. 

National auction procedure

As proposed earlier, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that each operator will be subject to a cap of 40 percent of the spectrum available, including existing licences. This rule was also in effect during the previous auction, in 2020. The Ministry said the distribution means there will be at least three providers of public, fast mobile communications in the 3.5 GHz band. This will guarantee enough competition in the telecom market, plus sufficient quality on the market, and reasonable prices. 

The permits will be distributed in a multi-round clock auction. The Minister of Economic Affairs will at conclusion announce the winning parties and make the entire bidding process public. The proposed reserve prices for the permits, or the starting prices in the auction, will total at least EUR 170 million. That is 3.9 percent lower than the original proposed minimum yield, because the permits are being issued later than planned. The total term of the permits is now more than 16 years. 

During the 2020 auction, the government already established a coverage requirement of 98 percent of the area of each Dutch municipality. Standards also applied for minimum speeds at the extreme edges of the mobile network. These requirements brought Dutch mobile internet speeds to an average above 100 Mbps. The maximum speeds near a network antenna are often higher, at over 2 Gbps.

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