The Spanish government postponed a planned auction for 5G-suitable 700MHz spectrum, blaming exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

In a statement, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation said it had informed the European Commission of its need to defer the process, which was scheduled to be completed by 30 June.

Spain plans to reallocate frequencies currently assigned to television channels in the 700MHz band for use in future 5G networks, which will then be auctioned to operators once conditions improve.

The ministry explained the decision to stay the process is intended to free operators to focus on “maintaining the connectivity of companies and people in this time of health emergency”.

It added it would announce a new date for the auction once the containment measures adopted by the country to contain the virus end.

The nation is the latest in Europe to suspend 5G auction processes due to the pandemic, with France, Austria and Portugal also delaying sales.

Spain held its first auction for 5G-suitable spectrum in July 2018, with operators splashing a total €438 million for 200MHz frequencies.