First quarter of 2021 sees most expensive spectrum auction ever
Apr 15, 2021 by Toby Youell


Tags26 GHz, 3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 3.7 - 4.2 GHz, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Nigeria, PolicyTracker Spectrum Database, PSD, Slovenia, United States

The latest PolicyTracker Spectrum Database quarterly update includes a spectrum auction that raised more money than any other.

The wave of expensive 3G auctions in Europe at the height of the dotcom boom has become the stuff of legend in spectrum policy circles. Germany’s 2000 auction of the 2.1 GHz band, for example, raised the 2021 equivalent of $69 billion, taking inflation into account.

But the spectrum record books will need re-writing this quarter following the US sale of the 3.7—3.98 GHz band. The spectrum, until relatively recently considered to be of marginal use for operators, raised $81 billion, plus $9.7 billion of incentive payments and compensation for the costs of clearing the band.

The band’s apparent value to the mobile industry may prompt other countries to auction it in future years.

Aside from the US, seven other countries held spectrum auctions in the first three months of 2021. Of these, awards in Chile and Sweden can be considered the most consequential as both auctions included hundreds of MHz in the 3.5 GHz band. The Chilean assignment also included an administrative award of 1200 MHz in the 26 GHz band, while Sweden auctioned 80 MHz at 2.3 GHz. The other five awards were either for residual spectrum (Spain and Bangladesh), regional licences (Kyrgyzstan), expiring licences (Hungary) or for narrowband bandwidth (Slovenia).

We also updated the Spectrum Database to take into account trades in Chile and Nigeria, as well as extensions and renewals in Nigeria, Italy and Belgium. The update includes a new administrative assignment in Germany and cancelled assignments in Indonesia.

The PolicyTracker Spectrum Database is updated quarterly and is available as part of our  Spectrum Research Service.•