The agony continues in Portugal’s record-breaking auction
Sep 28, 2021 by Manuel R. Marti


Portugal’s multi-band spectrum auction is still going on, almost a year after it began.

The main bidding phase of the sale of 700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.6 GHz frequencies started on 14 January, although the award has been running in some form since November last year.

Yes, you read that right. Today marks the 181st day of bidding… and counting!

This makes Portugal and Lithuania the only countries in the European Union that do not have any active commercial 5G network.

Many have blamed the painfully slow procedure on the tiny bidding increments established by the regulator Anacom.

Until yesterday, mobile operators had been bidding in increments of one per cent and three per cent. But the regulator has now increased the minimum bidding increment for each lot of spectrum lot to five per cent compared to the previous bid.

This is not the first time the regulator has had to intervene to speed up the auction.

Anacom had already increased the maximum number of daily bidding rounds, but that move had little effect.

As of yesterday, proceedings totalled €375 million—just over €70 million higher than total bids (€303 million on the 104th day) reached in June, when Portugal introduced its measure to streamline the auction.

The latest rules, which will mean participants can only increase their bids by 5, 10, 15 and 20 per cent, are expected to put an end to the agony soon(ish).

But what comes next? Inevitably, the long-running award has aggravated tensions between Anacom and Portugal’s mobile operators, leaving the regulator and the country’s entire telecoms sector in a fragile state.•