There were two mega auctions in 4Q21: one that started late and one that ended late
Feb 01, 2022 by Toby Youell


Bands1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz, 3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 26 GHz
Tags1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 26 GHz, 3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 850 MHz, 900 MHz, Brazil, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Hong kong, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Nigeria, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, UK, United Kingdom

The new iteration of the PolicyTracker Spectrum Database includes spectrum assignment information from 16 countries

Two Portuguese-speaking countries provided the locations for the most notable spectrum auctions that concluded in Q4 2021. The results from these auctions, and other changes to spectrum allocations and assignments, are included in the new iteration of the PolicyTracker Spectrum Database.

Brazil’s auction of the 2.3 GHz, 3.3—3.8 GHz and 26 GHz bands, as well as a residual 700 MHz band licence, was interesting for several reasons. The largest economy in South America made a lot of bandwidth available—490 MHz of nationwide spectrum in conventional bands (some of it in regional licences) plus another 2,200 MHz in the 26 GHz band.

The regulator, Anatel, originally intended to hold the auction in 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to COVID-19 and geopolitical reasons. Finally, the unusual auction design, with most of the “revenue” comprising investment commitment, has now been proved to be workable.

Portugal also held an auction that was remarkable but for very different reasons. Like Brazil, it awarded a lot of spectrum: 559 MHz across the 700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.3—3.8 GHz bands. But unlike Brazil, it used a well-understood SMRA format with typical conditions to encourage new entry.

It also allowed low bidding increments that appear to have been gamed, stretching the auction out over 201 days of bidding. The slow-moving auction, surely the longest spectrum auction ever held, tested everyone’s patience. Portugal’s Prime Minister described it as “obviously, the worst possible auction model”.

Q4’s other auctions tended to disappoint regulators wanting to put spectrum out to market.

Bidders in Hong Kong spurned the 600 MHz band in their multi-band awards and the Dominican Republic saw no bidders for its 700 MHz band licences. Auctions in Mexico and Romania also saw low demand across several bands. More successful awards were held in Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Malta, Montenegro, Nigeria and Singapore.

Overall, Q4 2021 saw assignments for 4,666 MHz on a nationwide basis across 12 countries, 10 of which used auctions. The band assigned the most during the quarter was the 3.3—3.8 GHz band, which was assigned in six countries. The 2.6 GHz band was included in five assignments. The 3.3—3.8 GHz band is widely seen as the primary 5G band, while 2.6 GHz band licences have expired or been rescinded in some countries.

The key low band for 5G, 700 MHz, was successfully sold in Brazil, Hong Kong, Latvia and Portugal.

There were also assignments in the 800 MHz, 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 4.9 GHz bands.

The update also includes information about new licence fees payable by 2.1 GHz licensees in the UK and a 2.1 GHz licence renewal in the Czech Republic.

In addition to Excel and Google Sheets, the database is now available online.