Vodafone attacks auction process as Italy completes €6.5bn spectrum sale

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Vodafone's new Group CEO has used the completion of the Italian spectrum auction to stress the need for governments to encourage investment into new networks.

Nick Read was speaking after the Italian government sold 5G spectrum for a total of €6.5 billion. Vodafone Italy accounted for €2.4 billion of the money raised, buying 80MHz of 3.7GHz for €1.69 billion, 2x10MHz of 700MHz for €683 million, and 200MHz of 26GHz for €33 million.

Vodafone has been one of several operators critical of the current model of selling spectrum. Read said: “Auctions should be designed to balance fiscal requirements with the need for investment to enable economic development.

"Telecoms is the sector that enables all other sectors to participate in the Gigabit society. It is critical that European governments avoid artificial auction constructs which fail to strike a healthy balance for the industry.”

The operator is planning to use the 3.7GHz spectrum from when it is available on 1 January to enhance coverage, strengthen capacity and deploy 5G. The 26GHz spectrum, also available from January 2019, will be used to deliver high capacity services.

The 700MHz spectrum will be available from July 2022 and will be used for 5G applications.

[Read more: Vodafone seeks start-up support for Milan 5G testbed]

TIM also spent €2.4 billion in total, acquiring 80MHz of 3.7GHz for €1.69 billion, 200MHz of 26GHz for €33 million, and two blocks of 700MHz, for €680 million.

CEO Amos Genish said: “By securing all three band frequencies put on auction, TIM strengthens its network leadership in Italy. The new frequencies acquired represent a core asset for the Group's future development and, at the same time, for the ongoing digitisation of Italy. The 5G tests initiated in recent years by TIM are a unique case in Italy, which have already brought about tangible results.

"The recent switch on of the antenna in Bari certifies TIM’s technological primacy. Our commitment to innovation is reaffirmed and we are convinced we can continue to offer our customers services that are always cutting edge as well as the best digital experience available on the market." 

Genish cited the likes of AI, VR, robotics and sensors as key use cases for 5G and said the spectrum available in 2019 would underpin existing deployments in Turin, Bari and Matera, and San Marino.

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Finally, Wind Tre spent 517 million, buying 20MHz of 3.7GHz and 200MHz of 26.GHz.

Jeffrey Hedberg, Wind Tre’s CEO, comments: “By combining our existing and unused 30 MHz of 2.6GHz ‘5G ready’ spectrum with the newly acquired frequencies, we will be able to launch 5G services on 50MHz.

"We are fully committed to the 5G future and have the resources, funding and a low cost base, to continue to innovate and to deliver high quality broadband services at attractive prices to our customers across Italy.”