Dutch govt confirms plans for 5G spectrum auctions in mobile white paper

Tuesday 11 June 2019 | 14:38 CET | News

The Dutch government has released its long-awaited mobile policy paper, laying the groundwork for two 5G spectrum auctions. The white paper from telecoms secretary Mona Keijzer aims to ensure healthy competition with three network operators and a continued high level of mobile broadband coverage. 

The first auction is still expected to take place by the end of 2019 or in early 2020, covering the 700, 1,400 and 2,100 MHz bands. A second auction of the 3.5 GHz band will take place in late 2021 or early 2022, meaning full 5G coverage will not happen before 2022. Part of the latter band will be reserved for local networks in response to demand from businesses to operate their own industrial 5G networks. 

Spectrum cap, speed requirements

The spectrum auctions will include mechanisms to ensure no single operator holds more than 40 percent of the available frequencies on the market. This will take into account both existing and the new spectrum blocks. The aim is to ensure at least three network operators remain and build 5G networks, providing healthy competition, quality services and reasonable prices for end-users. 

The paper also confirms plans to impose coverage requirements with the new spectrum licences. These will include both geographic coverage and minimum speed requirements for the mobile services. 

The operators will need to ensure at least 98 percent coverage of all municipalities in the country. In addition, based on advice obtained from PA Consulting, a minimum speed will apply to the very edges of the mobile network, of 8 Mbps in 2022 and 10 Mbps in 2026. 

This will ensure everyone can benefit from the network upgrades and result in an expected average speed for Dutch mobile users of 100 Mbps. Users closer to antennas will benefit from much higher speeds, of as much as 2 Gbps. The minimum speed requirements are relatively high compared to other countries. For example, Germany set a minimum 100 Mbps at the antenna, resulting in much lower speeds at the network edge. 

Security report

The government aims to provide further clarity to the market later this year before the consultation begins on the auction rules for the 700/1400/2100 MHz bands. In particular, it needs to finalise a solution for opening up the 3.5 GHz band in the north of the country, where a satellite listening station used by the security services has hampered planning on 5G licences. A preliminary agreement on moving the station was reached late last year but still needs to be implemented. Operators want clarity on the availability of this spectrum before bidding starts on the other licences, in order to plan their networks. 

The government said it was working on an international cooperation to facilitate some of the security services' interception activities. Recent working visits have shown this will be complex, but doable. The aim is to have a solution in place by September 2022 so the frequencies can be released to the market, and the government said it was confident it would meet the deadline. If this does not work, transitional measures may be needed for a short period. 

The cabinet is also still awaiting an opinion from the Economic Security Taskforce on securing 5G networks. This report is expected soon and will inform any change in policy on protecting vital infrastructure such as mobile networks from security threats like cyber-espionage. 

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Categories: Mobile & Wireless
Countries: Netherlands
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