EU commissioner Viviane Reding has written to the head of Germany’s federal network agency, Matthias Kurth, expressing concern over the way the country is set to hold its digital dividend spectrum auction next year. Reuters, citing a Financial Times Deutschland article, reports that Brussels is concerned about the way the licenses for the 800MHz spectrum will be auctioned, saying the way they are allocated could represent discrimination. The country’s smaller operators E-Plus and O2 have reportedly called on the regulator to ensure fair access to the frequencies for all mobile operators by limiting the bidding rights for the larger players. They argue market leaders T-Mobile and Vodafone already have an early-market entry advantage and have proposed that, as an alternative, the regulator should reallocate some of the spectrum already in use. Reuters notes that Kurth told the news agency last week that bidding rights are being fairly allocated.
The German government is keen to allocate frequencies in the digital dividend band – being freed up by the move from analogue to digital TV – for mobile broadband use. In August Vodafone Germany announced it is to test LTE technology in the digital dividend band using kit from Huawei, following an earlier trial with German public broadcaster WDR and the federal government of North Rhine-Westphalia to launch LTE services in rural areas. In February, rival German mobile operator E-Plus partnered with Ericsson and the German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to launch a mobile broadband pilot using the frequencies. The lower frequencies are considered to make network expansion into rural areas more economically viable and enable greater ‘in-building’ coverage. Earlier this summer the European Commission opened a formal consultation period concerning the release of digital dividend spectrum as part of a plan to develop an EU-wide roadmap for the switch from analogue to digital TV, which is scheduled to complete in 2012.