Vodafone Italia and Telecom Italia each spent €2.4 billion to grab the largest share of spectrum on offer in an Italian auction of 5G-suitable frequencies, which raised €4 billion more than the minimum amount targeted by the government.

All four of the country’s operators secured spectrum. Newcomer Iliad Italia spent €1.2 billion, while Wind Tre acquired licences to the value of €517 million.

In a statement, Italy’s Ministry for Economic Development said the auction generated “lively competition” especially for the lots of 3.7GHz. In that band, Vodafone and Telecom Italia were both awarded 80MHz at a cost of €1.7 billion each, while the other two operators secured allocations of 20MHz for €484 million apiece.

Telecom Italia and Vodafone Italia also bought 200MHz of 26GHz (mmWave) and 20MHz in the 700MHz band. Iliad won 200MHz in the 26GHz band, alongside its 20MHz of 3.7GHz and 10MHz in the 700MHz band. Wind Tre acquired 20MHz of 3.7GHz and 200MHz in the 26GHz band.

Licences are valid for 19 years, with the exception of 700MHz allocations, which will not be released until 2022 and cover a term of 15.5 years.

Telecom Italia CEO Amos Genish said the result strengthened its network leadership in the country: “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,” he added.

In a statement, Vodafone Group said the spectrum would deliver “substantial network operating cost efficiencies” with CEO Nick Read adding: “Auctions should be designed to balance fiscal requirements with the need for investment to enable economic development.”

The auction took 14 days and 171 rounds of bidding. The only unsold lots were blocks of 700MHz supplemental downlink (where unpaired spectrum is used to enhance downlink capacity), which will be put out to a new tender.