Italian telecom industry group Assotelecomunicazioni (Asstel) has written to the government to request a delay in over EUR 4 billion in 5G spectrum payments due later this year, according to a letter seen by Reuters. The country’s operators ended up bidding some EUR 6.55 billion – more than EUR 4 billion over the minimum reserve price of EUR 2.5 billion – in the national 5G spectrum tender held in October 2018 but intense price competition since Iliad entered the Italian market later that year has put the industry’s margins under severe pressure, said Asstel president Massimo Sarmi in the letter to industry minister Giancarlo Giorgetti.

The newly-appointed Asstel president and CEO of wholesale operator Open Fiber added that mobile operators would struggle to make the payments in a single year as it could affect their ability to fund other areas of business. Telecom Italia (TIM) and Vodafone Italia each ended up paying a total of EUR 2.4 billion for blocks in the 694-790 MHz, 26.5-27.5 GHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz bands at the auction and are due to pay around EUR 1.7 billion by the end of September. Both declined to comment on the report.

New entrant Iliad paid around EUR 1.2 billion at the 2018 auction, with WindTre investing EUR 517 million and Fastweb EUR 32.6 million. Back in 2018 Iliad noted that it would be allowed to spread out the payments for the licences over several years, with the bulk of the amount, EUR 993 million, due in 2022. 

At the time of the tender, trade unions issued a joint statement saying the auction had been conducted “without a rational analysis of the investment to potential revenue ratio” and warning that it would “risk the business continuity” of already heavily-indebted operators.

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