Spain ends 5G radio auction after telcos win 1 bln euros in frequencies

MADRID, July 21 (Reuters) - Spain on Wednesday closed its radio frequency auction for the core 700 megahertz band essential to deploying ultra-fast 5G mobile data services, leaving some of the blocks on offer unsold, the Economy and Digital Affairs Ministry said.

The three operators admitted to the auction that started on Tuesday - Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone - together paid 1.01 billion euros ($1.19 billion) for blocks belonging to the paired 700MhZ band.

But there were no bidders for any of the three blocks of 5MhZ offered on the non-paired band, meaning the auction’s reapings fell further short of an initial 2.1 billion euro goal set in Spain’s public budget for this year.

In May, Spain had sought to encourage participation in the twice-delayed auction, cutting prices by an average of 15% and removing the obligation to grant third-party operators access to the infrastructure.

Vodafone and Telefonica each acquired a 2x10MhZ band to expand their 5G services. Telefonica, which accepted more exacting conditions for its 5G rollout, paid 310 million euros compared to Vodafone’s 350 million.

Orange won two bands of 2x5MhZ, also totalling 350 million euros. The concessions will all run for 20 years and be extendable for 20 more years, a novelty announced last April as a sweetener providing operators greater visibility on their investment.

Neither MasMovil nor Euskaltel - currently in merger talks to create Spain’s fourth-largest operator - participated in the auction. ($1 = 0.8477 euros) (Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette, editing by Andrei Khalip and Grant McCool)