According to the 5G Action Plan of the EU, Member States are required to authorise the 700 MHz band by 2020, unless there are justified reasons for delaying it until mid-2022 at the latest.
5G spectrum auctions already took place in the three pioneer bands for 5G; all in all, at EU level, 13 countries have assigned spectrum for 5G in one or two bands. The 700 MHz band has been assigned in seven Member States so far including Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Sweden while the 3.4-3.8 GHz band has been assigned in nine MSs, in Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Spain and in the United Kingdom. The 26 GHz band has been assigned in Italy.
Exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 epidemic have forced some countries in Europe to postpone 5G auctions scheduled in the first months 2020. Four EU countries, Austria, France, Spain and Portugal have postponed spectrum auctions for 5G due to the Covid-19 epidemic so far. The Czech Republic also postponed its process but for different reasons. In Hungary, the 5G spectrum auction was upheld. It took place just one day before tight restrictions in activities and movements.
- In Austria, the regulator also decided to postpone the auction for 700MHz, 2100MHz and 1500MHz frequencies to a later date, still in 2020.
- In France, Arcep revealed that the current mobile network providers – Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR – have all qualified to take part in the 3.5 GHz spectrum auction. The process, which was initially scheduled for April 2020, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- In Portugal, regulator Anacom said the three operators requested a suspension of the multi-band (700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.6 GHz, and 3.6 GHz) spectrum auction.
- The Spanish government also postponed the planned auction for 5G-suitable 700MHz spectrum, blaming the spread of the virus to a non-specified later date.
- Hungary was the latest country to assign spectrum for 5G in a multi-band auction on 26 March 2020. Magyar Telecom, Vodafone Hungary and Telenor Hungary won 15-year licences in the 700 MHz, 2100 MHz and 3600 MHz bands and acquired usage rights for 128.49 billion HUF (368 million EUR). No bids were submitted for the 2600 MHz spectrum. The auction took place one day before the tight restrictions on movements and activities due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The process was however upheld due to heavy market interests.
- In the Czech Republic, the auction of frequencies in the 700MHz and 3.5GHz bands is pushed back later in 2020 due to other circumstances.
Additional postponements could be announced in the coming weeks, according to 5G Observatory, although countries with auction plans beyond April 2020 likely wait to know how the pandemic evolves.