Germany to allow new bidders in UMTS auction-paper

BERLIN, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Germany’s telecoms regulator will allow mobile phone operators other than the four market incumbents to bid for new UMTS third-generation licences in an auction next year, a newspaper reported on Monday.

The second tranche of UMTS licences will allow operators to offer access to the Internet and television as well as video and music downloads.

“Next year we will award frequencies in the 1.8 and 2.6 Gigahertz realm,” Matthias Kurth, president of the Bundesnetzagentur telecoms regulator, told the Financial Times Deutschland.

Kurth added that firms other than existing mobile phone operators T-Mobile DTEGn.DE, Vodafone VOD.L, E-Plus KPN.AS and Telefonica O2 TEF.MC could bid in the auction -- a scenario that may expose the incumbents to new competition.

A first UMTS auction in 2000 drew criticism from mobile operators because the amount of spectrum fell below what they needed to offer rich voice, video and data services to wireless devices anywhere in the world.

Six top telecoms players spent 51 billion euros ($73.98 billion) in 2000 on licences for 3G mobile telephony in Germany, but only four incumbent mobile operators were able to carry out their plans amid a crash in telecoms shares in 2002.

Mobilcom returned its spectrum packages and Quam, the brand name for Telefonica-Sonera joint venture Group 3G, halted its business in Germany in 2002.

With a population of 82 million, Germany is Europe’s biggest telecommunications market. (Writing by Paul Carrel; editing by Sue Thomas)