Preparations under way for national auction of mobile communications networks

The Dutch government aims to reinforce the position of the Netherlands as a world leader in the field of mobile infrastructure. Businesses and consumers should continue to have access to the fastest wireless communications networks in the future, irrespective of time or location. As products and services such as mobile Internet and contactless payments have become commonplace in our society, such access has become ever more crucial. For this reason, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is making preparations for a national auction of frequency ranges for 4G and 5G mobile networks in the autumn of 2019. This auction will free up more frequency ranges for the benefit of faster and more reliable mobile communications.

Minister Kamp: 'Without rapid wireless communications, our economy will grind to a halt. Demand among businesses and consumers for mobile communications services is set to increase over the coming years. Another national auction of available frequency ranges for wireless communications will lead to an increase in capacity and faster Internet services. This will provide the Dutch digital economy with a solid foundation for continuous growth in the future.'

Auction of mobile infrastructure for the 2020-2040 period

The autumn of 2019 will see a national auction of all frequency ranges in the frequency bands of 700, 1400 and 2100 megahertz (MHz). This infrastructure allows telephone and Internet service providers to offer rapid mobile communications to businesses and consumers, including 4G and 5G services. The available frequency ranges will be auctioned to interested parties for a concession period of 20 years (2020-2040). In this way, the Dutch frequency auction policy dovetails with the policies of other European countries with regard to 4G and 5G technologies.

Earlier this year, Minister Kamp announced that any future frequency auction bids would be made conditional on a coverage obligation. Such an obligation would apply specifically to those areas in the Netherlands that suffer from poor mobile connections.

The framework for the auction will be provided by the Mobile Communications Memorandum, which will be published later in 2017. A draft version of this memorandum was made available for public consultation earlier this year. The Ministry of Economic Affairs is currently processing business and expert reactions to the memorandum. It also hired Strict Consultancy to carry out further research.

Scope for business-specific solutions at later auctions

Among other things, Strict studied demand among businesses for a dedicated wireless frequency range for business processes. Activities such as automated container transshipment in seaports, baggage handling at airports or parking management require a reliable, always-on wireless communications solution.

However, the supply of such solutions does not yet fully meet the demand for them among businesses. In order to improve this situation, the Ministry of Economic Affairs proposes to make additional frequency ranges available for sole or shared use without a licence for the benefit of business-specific solutions. The reactions to the draft Mobile Communications Memorandum and the study carried out by Strict have shown that businesses do not consider licence-free use of the 2100 MHz frequency band ideal for this purpose. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has decided to follow Strict's advice to auction this frequency band for general mobile communications use.

The incoming government will use the definitive Mobile Communications Memorandum as a guide for decisions regarding the other frequency ranges that will be put up for auction over the coming years. These ranges are also suitable for business-specific solutions. It is the intention of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to submit the memorandum to the House of Representatives by the end of 2017.

The Netherlands: a world leader in terms of availability and speed

At this moment in time, the Netherlands is a world leader when it comes to the availability and speed of both landline and wireless connections, including Wi-Fi and 4G. The Netherlands is the only country in Europe that ranks in the global top ten for both mobile Internet (4G) coverage and speed. A European Commission study carried out earlier this year revealed that the Netherlands has a total 4G coverage of more than 99%.