Starting signal for the award of new mobile radio frequencies

Bern, 06.07.2018 - The Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) is launching the invitation to tender for the award of new mobile radio frequencies. These frequencies are of great importance for the introduction of 5G, the next mobile radio technology, in Switzerland. The new mobile radio frequencies will be awarded within the framework of an auction which is expected be held in January 2019. The auction has been designed so that all interested companies can participate and so that current operators can acquire frequencies for the rollout of 5G. The frequencies will be assigned for 15 years, giving the mobile operators long-term planning security.

A public consultation revealed great interest in the new mobile radio frequencies in the 700 MHz, 1400 MHz, 2600 MHz and 3.5 GHz ranges. These will enable the early introduction of the much more powerful 5G mobile radio technology and support the digitalization of Switzerland. The frequencies used to date for other purposes are expected to be used initially to improve quality on the existing LTE networks until the transmission equipment and terminals for 5G become available.

ComCom has entrusted the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) with conducting the tender procedure which is being launched today. The invitation to tender will be published in the Federal Gazette on 10 July 2018 and the documents are available on the OFCOM website (see links below).

Award in a simple auction procedure
In the interests of transparency and equal treatment, the award of the frequencies will take place within the framework of a “clock auction” (CA). A CA is a simple auction format which allows bidding on all the frequency categories in parallel. The current operators and other interested companies can take part under identical conditions. The procedure is designed to be open; neither the number of licences to be granted nor the configuration of frequencies is laid down by ComCom.

ComCom has incorporated bidding restrictions ("spectrum caps") in the auction rules. This is intended to guarantee that the three existing operators in particular can acquire 5G frequencies in the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz band. All participants in the market therefore have the possibility of obtaining a configuration of frequencies which corresponds to their business models.

The award will take place via an electronic bidding system designed by the English company DotEcon Ltd. This system, which makes it possible to make secure bids via the internet, has already been used in various countries.

Objectives of the auction
Consumers in Switzerland must continue to be able to benefit from high-quality, innovative and attractively priced mobile communications products. ComCom's intention is to efficiently award frequencies to all the operators, whilst promoting competition and technological innovation.

The frequencies, awarded in a technologically neutral manner, can be operated in conjunction with the latest technologies such as LTE-Advanced or, in the immediate future, 5G. Thanks to a timely award and with a term fixed until the end of 2033, licensees are able to plan their long-term activities and to invest in complete confidence. Furthermore, the granting of additional frequencies enables them to meet the ever growing demand for broadband mobile services.

Frequencies are a scarce public resource. Anyone wishing to use frequencies must pay fees to do so. In the case of an auction, the minimum prices for the frequency blocks are set according to the statutory provisions so that appropriate revenue from the auction is assured. In the case of the particularly attractive FDD frequencies in the 700 MHz frequency band, ComCom has set minimum prices per block which are twice the minimum prescribed by the Federal Council. However, it is not ComCom’s objective to maximise auction revenue. The focus is on a good allotment of frequencies to operators and good coverage of the country with high-quality telecommunications services.

Both the existing mobile radio licensees (Salt, Sunrise and Swisscom) and any new operators which wish to participate in the auction have until 5 October 2018 to submit a candidature dossier to OFCOM. In it they must specify the maximum amount of spectrum they wish to purchase within the individual bands. They must also lodge a bank guarantee to the value of the summated minimum bids for the frequencies they are applying for. They must also prove that they can meet the statutory licensing requirements and the specific obligations of the invitation to tender. If a candidate meets the requirements, they will be authorised by ComCom to take part in the auction. It is planned to hold the auction in January 2019 and subsequently to award the licences.

To prevent possible collusion and agreements between the bidders as far as possible, ComCom will not make known the names or the number of candidates. The names of the candidates, the winners, the acquired frequencies and the auction price will be published only after the conclusion of the auction.

Address for enquiries

Stephan Netzle, ComCom President, phone +41 58 463 52 90
For technical information: René Dönni Kuoni, Telecom and Post Division Head, OFCOM, phone +41 58 460 55 43


Federal Communications Commission ComCom