Germany ends 5G spectrum auction with €6.6B in bids

Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and other operators in Germany have ended a 52-day bidding war over 5G spectrum.


The country's 5G spectrum auction began March 18, and raised €6.6 billion ($7.4 billion) for the German government, with operators out-spending initial estimates of €3 billion to €5 billion ($3.4 billion to $5.6 billion). Deutsche Telekom spent €2.2 billion ($2.5 billion), Vodafone spent €1.9 billion ($2.1 billion), Telefónica spent €1.4 billion ($1.6 billion) and Drillisch spent €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion).


The German finance ministry has said it’ll put the proceeds of the auction to use improving the country’s digital infrastructure.


Operators, however, were not too pleased with the auction results. Dirk Wössner, who sits on the board of management for Telekom Deutschland, said the spectrum prices “could have been much lower.”


“The network rollout in Germany has suffered a significant setback,” Wössner said in a statement. “Once again, the spectrum in Germany is much more expensive than in other countries.”


He went on to claim that “network operators now lack the money to expand their networks.”


“With the auction proceeds one could have built approximately 50,000 new mobile sites and closed many white spots,” he added, referring to areas in Germany with inadequate broadband and mobile Internet coverage.


Vodafone’s head of German operations, Hannes Ametsreiter, made similar comments and described the auction as a “disaster for Germany,” according to a report from Fortune.


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Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica had earlier tried to halt the auction over concerns about the conditions that the country’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) had attached to the auction results, but the courts decided to allow the auction to proceed.


BNetzA had decided that the winners of the auction would need to provide high-speed Internet to 98% of German households, and would be obligated to share their networks with competitors through a national roaming program, according to Fortune’s report.  


But, with the auction finally over, operators said they are eager to begin rolling out 5G networks across the country. “We want to get started now,” Wössner said, adding that the carrier will “tackle network expansion in rural areas” with some of its competitors.