Huawei says European 5G delays certain; countries postpone spectrum auctions

Huawei executives appear certain the global COVID-19 pandemic will stall 5G deployments in Europe and the U.K. Meanwhile, multiple countries have now postponed planned 5G spectrum auctions.

The Chinese tech vendor, which is one of the network gear suppliers for European operators, said 5G rollouts will “certainly be delayed" by the coronavirus outbreak, according to Fortune.

Huawei VP Victor Zhang told reporters that the impact wouldn’t hit the U.K. as hard as the rest of Europe, but setbacks may continue until the virus crisis is controlled.

This week, Austria’s Telekom-Control Commission (RTR), announced postponement of the country’s second 5G auction slated for April due to federal restrictions put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The auction includes spectrum in the 700 MHz, 1.5 GHz, and 2.1 GHz bands.

RELATED: CBRS PAL auction pushed back a month due to COVID-19

RTR said that it was too early to set a new date, as it’s unable to make a definitive assessment of how long the crisis will last or the actual effects. The regulator does expect to still hold the auction some time in 2020.

The regulator stressed that pushing back the 5G auction doesn’t mean 5G expansion is threatened, noting that frequencies awarded at the first 5G auction last year provides sufficient unused resources.

Spain recently said it would put off its planned 5G spectrum auction, unable to stick to a mid-year deadline as the country battles one of the world’s worst national outbreaks of the virus.

Spain was planning to open up 700 MHz spectrum, with a target of June 30. The government has not yet set a new deadline, but intends to do so depending when emergency measures and restrictions on residents' movements are lifted, Reuters reported.

Neighboring Portugal’s spectrum auction planned for sometime between April and June was suspended by the National Communications Authority (ANACOM), which said major operators had petitioned to have the processes put on hold in light of constraints and unpredictability of the coronavirus situation.

Portugal planned to allocate low-band and mid-band spectrum including the 700 MHz, 2.6 GHz, and 3.6 GHz bands, among others.

France’s industry regulator Arcep in recent weeks decided to delay a 5G auction planned for mid-April as the country experiences a lockdown in efforts to slow the spread of the virus. The CEO of Iliad had said the French carrier had already taken into account a likely postponement, which according to Bloomberg, won’t change the company’s plans to launch commercial 5G by the end of 2020.

In the U.S., too, the Federal Communications Commission last month decided to push back a scheduled June auction for Priority Access Licenses (PAL) in the shared CBRS 3.5 GHz band by one month until July 23.