Large portion of recent assignments come from a surprising source
Oct 30, 2019 by Toby Youell


LocationBahrain, Finland, Global, Kosovo, Mexico
TagsAKEP, Bahrain, Batelco, IPKO, Kosovo, Kosovo Telecom, Milicom, PolicyTracker Spectrum Database, Telenor, Zain

It’s not spectrum auctions that have produced most of the updates in this quarter’s PolicyTracker Spectrum Database (PSD).

The last quarter of 2019 saw 817.4 MHz of new or changed assignments, but roughly only a quarter (220 MHz) of these came from new awards.

Although regulators around the world are busy preparing or undertaking awards of “5G” spectrum, only two of these awards occurred during the third quarter (Q3) of 2019.

By contrast, the second quarter (Q2) saw 5,644 MHz of new assignments tracked in the PSD. Although Q3 accounts for far fewer new assignments, Q2 probably seemed larger because of two awards for very large blocks of mmWave spectrum in the US and Japan.

The majority of recent changes followed licence renewals, trades and/or swaps, and corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Specifically, only awards in Albania and Bahrain reacher a conclusion during July, August and September. And while the 3.5 GHz and mmWave bands are often spoken of as primary 5G bands, these two awards dealt with other possible 5G bands: 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.

Bahrain assigned the most spectrum: its three operators each picked up 2 x 10 MHz in the 800 MHz band and an unpaired 40 MHz block in the 2.6 GHz band. Operators Zain and Batelco each acquired a further 10 MHz in the 2.6 GHz band following some competitive bidding. The prices paid per band for these assignments were not disclosed. In Albania, regulator AKEP put 2 x 20 MHz in the 800 MHz band up for sale, of which 2 x 10 MHz was sold for the equivalent of USD 0.1409/MHz/POP.

Rights to 130 MHz of spectrum in Kosovo were renewed for operators IPKO and Kosovo Telecom in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands, while in the opposite corner of Europe, Yellow Mobile lost its rights to 20 MHz of the 2.6 GHz band in Iceland following its failure to use the spectrum.

We have also updated the PSD to take into account a trade in Mexico for 60 MHz of the 2.5 GHz band and a swap among two UK mobile operators for a total of 30.4 MHz in the 900 MHz band.

The PSD has also been updated with new or corrected information concerning already-existing and/or noted assignments in a range of countries. For example, we were previously able to disclose how much spectrum each German operator had acquired in the 3.4–3.7 GHz band auction. But this quarter we have added the specific frequencies usable by each operator, following the conclusion of the assignment process.

Spectrum database: The most significant change

The most significant updates to the PSD, in terms of the number of MHz affected, came from two corporate mergers. Milicom completed its purchase of Telefonica’s operations in Panama, while the most significant change occurred in Finland where Telenor Group completed its acquisition of DNA. That acquisition included licences to 291 MHz of spectrum across the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands.

The PSD tracks changes to global spectrum allocations and assignments from auctions, beauty contests, renewals or the results of trades. It is updated quarterly and is available as part of our Spectrum Research Service.•