In an unusual move, CTU, the Czech telecoms regulator, suspended the country’s spectrum auction because bids were escalating too far beyond the reserve price.
CTU set a minimum price of CZK7.4 billion ($377m) for the three frequency bands under the hammer – 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz – but overall bidding climbed to CZK20 billion before the regulator decided to pull the plug.
The watchdog fears that if spectrum costs are too high, customers will suffer through higher service charges and the possible slowdown of 4G network rollouts.
“When announcing the conditions in the first half of last year, we stressed that the main motivation of the auction was the quick availability of a 4G network for Czech citizens and the possible entry of a fourth operator – never about profits for the state,” CTU chief Pavel Dvorak said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
Four groups were bidding for the three frequency bands up for grabs – the local subsidiaries of T-Mobile, Telefonica and Vodafone, as well as PPF, one of the largest private equity firms in Central and Eastern Europe.
Dvorak, according to news agency CTK, said the regulator still wants to sell the frequencies this year, although details about how the new auction will be structured are not yet clear.
Under the terms of the original auction, operators could not end up with more than 2×22.5MHz of 800MHz and 900MHz combined. A sub-1 GHz spectrum cap also placed restrictions on the amount of 800 MHz that operators with 900 MHz assets could bid for.
The CTU also earmarked a block of 1800 MHz spectrum for a new market entrant.
All licence winners were also required to open up their LTE networks to MVNOs and to launch commercial services within two years.