Auction 3.5 GHz frequencies for 5G is expected after summer 2023

Minister Micky Adriaansens from EZK expects to be able to auction off the 3.5 GHz frequencies for 5G after the summer of 2023. The minister aims to make the 3.5 GHz band available for 5G by 1 December 2023 at the latest. This is stated by Minister Adriaansens in a letter to The Folketing of Representatives.

“The implementation of the 3.5 GHz auction is planned” after the summer of 2023, the minister writes in his letter. “If I do, I will continue to strive to make the 3.5 GHz band available for nationwide mobile 5G use from December 1, 2023.” The question is how realistic the deadline of 1 December is if the frequency auction does not take place until the autumn.

Inmarsat now uses the 3.5 GHz band for satellite traffic to provide emergency communications with ships and aircraft. Because the 5G network of providers at 3.5 GHz would interfere too much with this satellite traffic, providers cannot yet use this frequency band. Inmarsat wants to move the ground station in Friesland to a new location in Greece, but that move will not be completed until January 2023 at the earliest.

However, the company may free up frequency space for 5G providers at the end of next year, but the satellite company needs about four months to do this. Inmarsat’s systems must be adapted to the providers’ frequencies, but it will only be known after the auction which 3.5 GHz frequencies the providers will use. As a result, it seems unlikely that providers will actually be able to use the 3.5 GHz band for 5G from 1 December 2023. In this case, moreover, these providers will only be allowed to use two-thirds of their won frequency space until Inmarsat has definitely left the Netherlands.

The minister expects to be able to auction off the 3.5 GHz frequencies only after the summer, because the national frequency plan must be changed to 2x50MHz instead of 100MHz

The minister does not expect to be able to auction off the 3.5 GHz frequencies until after the summer, as the national frequency plan must be overhauled. For example, Minister Adriaansens initially wanted to make a block of 100MHz available for setting up private 5G networks. After criticism from market parties, the minister decided against this. The plan is now to create two blocks of 50HMz.

However, various operators of local networks, including a company active in the port of Rotterdam, opposed this. They now have a license to use frequency space above the 3.5 GHz band. In the Ministry’s previous proposal, these companies would therefore have to migrate to 100MHz at the bottom of the 3.5GHz band and therefore have to replace a lot of equipment. The company, which is active in Rotterdam, therefore threatened, among other things, with compensation claims.

“Based on the different views and external research, I have now made a weighting and have come to a choice for the band division of the 3.5 GHz band, whereby 2×50 MHz will be provisionally designated for local use in a final decision about a decision being made to change the NFP. Adriaansens acknowledges that this solution is not optimal for everyone; two blocks of 50MHz mean, among other things, that the parties can use less frequency space than one separate 100MHz block. With this solution, the migration of local parties within the 3.5 GHz band remains clear, according to the minister, and ‘the consequences for the extension of the auction can be limited’.

The choice of this provisional band allocation of 2×50 MHz will be evaluated around 2026, when all interests will be weighed. If it is decided to move the band allocation to the 3.5 GHz band in 2026, then it will be obvious to implement this shift in 2030. A shift in the band allocation will again require a change to the NFP,” writes Minister Adriaansens in the letter.

Read the letter from the minister here https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/binaries/rijksoverheid/documenten/kamerstuks/2022/12/21/rapport-formele-telecomraad-6-december-2022/rapport-formele-telecomraad-6-december -2022.pdf

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