Europe’s first auction of radio frequencies in the sought-after 700MHz band kicked off today (27 May) in the continent’s largest market of Germany.

However, anyone expecting the kind of long-running, high-stakes drama seen recently in the US will probably be disappointed since the only bidders are the country’s three incumbents. Disruptive outsiders are notable by their absence.

The lack of outsiders usually restricts the bidding price in such contests, although surprises can occur.

T-Mobile, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland will fight over a total of 270MHz across the 700MHz, 900MHz, 1500MHz and 1800MHz bands. BNetza, the German telecoms regulator, said 2 x 30MHz in the 700MHz band can be gradually used, starting in 2017.

The regulator said the 700MHz band is earmarked to improve mobile broadband in rural areas, which typically suffer compared to cities. Its aim is to use the frequencies to achieve almost complete nationwide availability of mobile broadband.

BNetza set out some stringent rollout requirements: winners must provide broadband coverage to at least 98 per cent of households nationwide. Households must be offered competitive services with an average transmission rate of at least 10 Mb/s. And mobile broadband coverage must also be guaranteed along national motorways and leading rail links.