It hasn’t been a vintage year for spectrum auctions.
In the Czech Republic, the regulator was forced to cancel its 4G auction in March. The process started again the other week – and promptly faced legal challenges from two of the companies due to take part.
In Australia, an auction ended in May with 2 x 15 MHz of prime 700 MHz spectrum unsold after operators complained it was too expensive. The country’s new telecoms minister has told the regulator to try again – without changing the price.
In Austria, regulators were forced to reserve 800 MHz spectrum for new entrants following the merger of two key market players last year. However, recent reports claim that no new entrants have come forward in the auction. The results are due shortly. There’s been a legal challenge there as well.
And in Finland, an 800 MHz auction has been put on hold. Bidding started in January but somehow kept going back to the start, like some kind of scratched record (remember them?). The regulator says it is now “sharpening” the rules (the spectrum equivalent of cleaning the vinyl) and the procedure is due to get under way again shortly.
Opinion is usually divided about whom to blame for these problems. Is it the fault of the politicians who have unrealistic expectations and impose unrealistic conditions for spectrum sales? The consultants who design the auction procedures? The companies who try to exploit the rules in ways that were never intended?
No wonder the European Commission is so keen to increase its influence over spectrum regulation, including auctions. There must be hundreds of bureaucrats in Brussels itching to show that things could be done better.