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Germany’s mobile phone licences up for grabs

Swisscom owned Debitel bids for new German mobile phone licence Keystone

The German government has begun auctioning licences for a third generation UMTS mobile phone in Germany. A Swisscom affiliate is one of the companies bidding to garner a foothold in Europe's largest telecoms market.

Mobile phone operators are expected to bid around SFr45 billion for the four to six licences on offer at the auction in Mainz.

The bidders include Swisscom-backed Debitel and Spanish-Finnish consortium, Group 3G. Also in running are existing German mobile phone operators, Deutsche Telekom, Mannesmann Mobilfunk, E-Plus Hutchison, Viag Interkom and MobilCom.

“It is quite possible that we’ll have four bidders in the end taking over three blocks of frequency each,” Germany’s telecom regulator, Klaus Dieter Scheurle, told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

The future success of Europe’s telecom companies may hinge on upgraded UMTS networks. It’s expected that these will open up lucrative new revenue streams for high speed mobile Internet and data services, which may one day substitute fixed line phones.

The minimum level for first round bids is SFr75 million, with all proceeds from the auction going to the German federal government.

The Swiss telecommunication authorities will no doubt be watching this latest liberalisation of its largest neighbour’s mobile phone market with great interest. Further liberalisation of the Swiss market is expected, although no date has as yet been set.

A similar auction in the UK last year, which raised more than expected, was criticised for overvaluing the licences on sale.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR