Bids in Germany's 5G auction already top 6 billion euros

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s auction of frequencies for fifth-generation mobile services, now into its 10th week, has drawn 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in bids so far.

The amount raised in a record 405 auction rounds for the 41 blocks on offer has exceeded forecasts as operators slug it out to secure spectrum to run ‘smart’ factories and offer super-fast broadband to the home.

Market leader Deutsche Telekom has complained that the regulator has forced up prices by offering too little spectrum.

Deutsche Telekom leads in 13 of the blocks, with competitor Vodafone ahead in 12 and Telefonica Deutschland in eight, according to auction results published by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA).

New entrant 1&1 Drillisch, a ‘virtual’ mobile player controlled by United Internet, leads in eight blocks, as billionaire CEO Ralf Dommermuth pursues his dream of becoming Germany’s fourth operator.

Drillisch, and United Internet, have slashed their dividend payouts to conserve cash so that they can stay in the game.

Industry bosses say that inflated auction costs would undermine their ability to invest the billions needed to build 5G networks - as happened in a pricey spectrum auction in Italy last year.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine and Emma Thomasson; Editing by Susan Fenton