Q3 sees new record prices for the 3.5 GHz band
Oct 21, 2021 by Toby Youell


Bands1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz, 3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz
Tags1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz, 3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz

New iteration of PolicyTracker Spectrum Database tracks 11 auctions across six bands.

The last three months included two potentially expensive spectrum auctions. Operators in one of these countries, Pakistan, largely shunned the award; but Canadian operators ended up paying record prices. These auction results are reported in the 2021 Q3 update of the PolicyTracker Spectrum Database.

The update contains updated information for over 2,700 MHz of spectrum across eight bands and 11 countries. The majority of changes this Quarter comprised spectrum auctions.

Although only three countries awarded the primary 5G band, 3.5 GHz, Canada’s auction raised the highest MHz/POP prices for any award of the band.

These prices were driven by the shortage of available spectrum, exacerbated by protections for incumbents, and set asides. The average price for spectrum in the band was the equivalent of $1.83/MHz/POP, but this was much higher ($2.61/MHz/POP) for the three big operators. These operators were able to control the damage by buying some licences in the band from incumbent Fixed Wireless Access operators.

Pakistan’s government reportedly hoped to raise $1 billion from an auction of the 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz band. To raise this amount, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) included high reserve prices for the auction, pegged to the US Dollar, that proved too high for mobile operators. In the end, only 2 x 5 MHz of the 1800 MHz band was sold for the reserve price, $279 million, the equivalent of $0.08/MHz/POP.

It was not all bad news for the PTA. It also completed a sale of spectrum rights for the 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz bands in the regions of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, and Gilgit Baltistan.

Three European countries, Croatia, Norway, and Spain, also completed spectrum auctions in Q3 2021. Spain awarded the 700 MHz band while Norway sold the 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz band. Croatia auctioned spectrum low-, mid-, and high-bands at 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 26 GHz. We also tracked an auction of the 1800 MHz band in Afghanistan, completed prior to the country’s take-over by the Taliban.

In addition to these auctions, Iran, Kosovo, and Russia also assigned and/or extended spectrum through an administrative process. The new iteration of the database also takes into account a trade of the 3.5 GHz band in Chile that was agreed so that Entel could comply with a spectrum cap for a previous auction.

The PSD is updated quarterly and is available to Spectrum Research Service subscribers here.