(Recasts lead, adds details of Italy 5G auction)
By Stephen Jewkes and Sudip Kar-Gupta
MILAN/PARIS, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Iliad has offered at least 749 million euros ($867 million) for spectrum in Italy’s fifth-generation mobile auction as it seeks to boost its first venture outside France.
The Italian industry ministry said on Tuesday that the French mobile group founded by billionaire Xavier Niel had made initial bids totalling more than 72 million euros for two more lots after it was awarded frequencies on Monday on the 700 MHz band at a price of 676.5 million euros.
Italy is one of the first countries in Europe to offer frequencies for 5G services, allowing operators to roll out ultra-fast internet connections to Italian homes and businesses.
Broker Oddo BHF said the award of the 700 MHz lot, which was guaranteed by virtue of Iliad’s status as a newcomer to Italy, was good news since it was the best spectrum in the auction.
Some TV operators like Mediaset and Italian state broadcaster RAI operate on this frequency and will have to migrate business.
Iliad, which has been losing ground in its home market, entered the Italian mobile phone market in May and has bagged 2 million clients in its first 100 days, putting pressure on the country’s biggest phone group Telecom Italia and the other operators, Vodafone and Wind Tre.
The European Union wants to deploy 5G for all urban areas and major terrestrial roads by 2025 under a 2016 plan.
Telecom Italia, whose biggest shareholder is French media giant Vivendi, made initial bids totalling 951 million euros in the auction, the ministry said.
Other carriers filing first-round bids included Vodafone, Swisscom unit Fastweb and Wind Tre, it said.
There are concerns that some operators might adopt a more cautious approach to the auction after investments in a previous 4G sale in 2011 proved tougher to recoup than first thought.
The ministry said the first round of bidding totalled 2.48 billion euros, which is in line with government expectations. A second round of bids is due to begin on Thursday. ($1 = 0.8635 euros) (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Sudip Kar-Gupta, additional reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Sarah White)