Austria sells 5G licenses for a song, seeking rapid rollout

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Telekom Austria with its brand name A1 is seen in Vienna, Austria, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria has sold 5G licenses to three national mobile operators and a handful of local players, bringing in a mere 188 million euros ($213 million) in an auction aimed at ensuring a rapid rollout of the new technology.

Austria, a laggard in the European Union for fast broadband connections, is among the first countries in the bloc to auction 5G licenses. Its first 5G auction is mainly aimed at speeding up data services in densely populated areas.

While the amount the 5G auction brought in was more than the 50 million euros the right-wing government had budgeted for, it paled in comparison to the 6.5 billion euros neighboring Italy raised in October after a bidding war between operators.

“We want to be a front-runner in 5G,” telecoms regulator RTR’s managing director Johannes Gungl told a news conference. Asked to explain the size of the bids, he said only that they were where supply met demand.

“We also want this spectrum ... to be fully used and for the population and business to be able to enjoy the greater bandwidth,” he added.

The auction divided the country into 12 zones. Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile, Telekom Austria’s A1 and Hutchison Drei secured licenses in all 12, while four local operators secured licenses in up to three zones each.

A1 had the biggest bid with 64.3 million euros, followed by T-Mobile with 56.9 million euros and Hutchison Drei with 51.9 million euros, RTR data showed. The other operators secured licenses with bids of roughly 5 million euros or less.

The licenses came with a requirement that the three national operators set up at least 303 base stations nationwide as of Dec. 31 next year, rising to 1,000 from June 30, 2022, RTR said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter