Germany auctions 4G frequencies

Germany’s Federal Network Agency, the Bundesnetzagentur, today started auctioning off the frequency spectrum used by the 4G mobile phone standard LTE (Long-Term Evolution). Four mobile operators have been admitted to the auctions, namely E-Plus, Telefonica O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

“Waiting is no option for this country,” said the agency’s president Mathias Kurth on opening the auction. “Germany has to be the first country which uses the possibilities and advantages offered by the new technologies.”

At the end of the third round, KPN’s German subsidiary E-Plus offered 8.64 and 8.62 million euro for two blocks of paired spectrum in the 0.8GHz frequency block. T-Mobile offered 2.52 million euro, O2 289 and 2.88 million euro for two blocks and Vodafone merely offered 2.51 million euro for one block in the 800MHz band.

E-Plus is hard-pressed to buy frequency blocks in the 800MHz band, as it will prove cheapest in terms of setting up 4G infrastructure. E-Plus has been concentrating on voice services in the last few years, selling various plans under different brand names such as Base and Simyo in Germany. The operator needs to add capacity for data services, fast.

Germany last sold frequencies a decade ago during the height of the Dotcom Bubble, when it auctioned off the spectrum needed for 3G mobile services. Mobile operators paid billions and billions of euro for 3G frequency blocks and suffered for years to come.

Friends of The Earth Germany warned of strongly growing levels electromagnetic pollution. Thinly populated regions in the country are set to suffer most, as operators will roll out LTE towers instead of laying fibre optic cables for broadband services.

One criticism was that LTE’s long-term effects on humans is still unclear. Apparently high dosages of magnetic pollution will wreck animals sense of orientation – bats would be left flying without their radar. Human beings, it is suspected, might be prone to brain cancer. Disadvantages to personal health and the animal world however seem to be of no concern, compared to economic and commercial benefits. Just think of all the nice things a 4G iPhone will be able to do.