The auction of the 3.5 GHz band in the Netherlands will start 25 June, the economic affairs ministry announced. A total 300 MHz, in the range 3,450-3,750 MHz, will be available, with a maximum 120 MHz per bidder. The new spectrum should be available for 5G networks from August, and the licences will run until the end of 2040. 

The release of the key mid-band spectrum has been long delayed due to a dispute with Inmarsat about vacating the band. The satellite operator agreed at the end of 2023 finally to move its maritime operations from the north of the Netherlands to a new site in Greece. This opened the way to auctioning the frequencies, which can be used to develop standalone 5G services. 

Part of the 3.5 GHz band (2x50MHz) has already been reserved for private networks in the Netherlands, with applications open for that since the end of 2023. 

Bidders unknown

No details on the bidders for the auction have been announced, but all three existing mobile operators – KPN, Vodafone, Odido – have expressed interest. Applications were opened in February, and the auction is designed in such a way as to ensure at least three winners. 

The Digital Infrastructure Authority (RDI) will conduct the electronic auction using a multi-round clock format. Bidding will start with three blocks of 60 MHz priced at EUR 39.22 million each, followed by 12 blocks of 10 MHz for a minimum EUR 4.36 million each. In a final third round, winners can bid for specific spectrum positions. 


The 3.5 GHz auction is a long time coming, after having to overcome issues with existing users in the band and how private networks would be accommodated. With the auction finally going ahead in June, the existing operators can plan how to employ the new spectrum for their capacity needs.

The question is whether end-users will notice much difference, as the current 5G offerings are little remarked. The downside for operators is they don’t have much reason to charge extra for 5G.

The spectrum has a reserve price of EUR 170 million in total, and the expectation is the total price will raise little more than that for the state. 

The operators Odido and KPN have started already preparing their networks for standalone 5G. Odido has said it’s almost finished, and KPN completed tests last year, reaching speeds of nearly 1 Gbps and a latency of 14ms. KPN plans to roll out standalone 5G gradually this year. Vodafone’s progress on this has not been made public yet.

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