The Nikkei news site in Japan reported that the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) will introduce a spectrum auction system by early 2026. This is a new development in Japan, where previously MIC allocated spectrum to wireless carriers for free.

The newspaper said that instead of a simple auction determined solely by price, the auction will be contingent upon various factors, such as technology and business plans. The format of the auction has not yet been determined, but MIC will be looking at the possibility of including millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in future auctions. It noted that mmWave can be used to boost coverage in stadiums and other large facilities, and the spectrum can also be used for home broadband via fixed wireless access (FWA).

“A working group will soon be established with the four major cell phone operators, equipment manufacturers, and experts to begin discussions on auction conditions and other issues,” stated the Nikkei article.

The analysts at New Street Research, led by Chris Hoare, have repeatedly noted that Rakuten Mobile is hamstrung by its spectrum position.

On January 24 New Street wrote that MIC’s intention to auction spectrum for money will benefit the three incumbent operators in Japan — NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank — because it has the potential “to deepen the moat around their businesses.”

Fierce has previously asked Rakuten Mobile for comment about its spectrum position, but the company has only stated that it has been allocated three types of spectrum from the government: Sub-6, mmWave and 1.7 GHz.

New Street wrote last week that MIC’s announced process of auctioning future spectrum “seems to be very similar to the one proposed by NTT six months ago and contested by Rakuten.”  NTT proposed auctioning spectrum because it believes that the current process whereby spectrum is allocated for free is creating instability through enabling new entrants, stated New Street.

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