After a number of delays, the Austrian spectrum auction held in 2013 has finally been ruled valid by the country’s highest court, according to Reuters.
The ruling, which cannot be appealed, brings to an end the process started by the Austrian business units of Hutchison Whampoa and Deutsche Telekom which appealed against the results of the auction in November last year.
The auction netted the government around €2 billion, and was Europe’s most expensive 4G auction on a per capita basis at the time.
The main issue the operators had with the auction was they felt it had been designed to maximise financial returns for the government at the expense of competition in the mobile market.
The operators particularly objected to a condition that allowed individual bidders to acquire up to 50 per cent of the available spectrum, with the risk that one of the three bidders could end up with nothing.
Although the country’s regulator said it would not have allowed this to happen, the complainants said the fear of losing out altogether drove bidders to ever-higher prices.
Another gripe was that no bidder was allowed to know what the others were putting on the table. While this prevented collusion, it was seen by the two operators as another way to ramp up prices.
However, Hutchison withdrew its appeal in June, after the Austrian government said it would invest €1 billion of the auction proceeds to improve broadband infrastructure in the country. The government has yet to spell out what its plan will involve.
If the court had decided to uphold the complaint, the auction would have been rerun, delaying the availability of higher-speed mobile services in Austria.
It would also have impacted the government’s investment pledge for improving access to high-speed internet services in the country.
Telekom Austria paid most in the auction (€1.03 billion for 14 spectrum blocks), followed by T-Mobile (nine blocks for €654 million). Hutchison paid €330 million for five blocks but did not win any spectrum in the most attractive 800 MHz band.