The results of the recently concluded Danish multi-band (700MHz, 900MHz and 2300MHz) auction showed very differing outcomes for each of the participants in terms of amount of spectrum acquired and amount paid:
Figure 1: Outcome of Danish multi-band auction
1 Exchange rate of 0.13 DKK/EUR used (Source: Denmark’s national bank)
Despite these large differences in the spectrum acquired and price paid, it may very well be that all three participants will regard themselves as winners from the process:
TDC acquired the most spectrum (130MHz), but paid the highest price – DKK1619.6 million (EUR0.28 per MHz per pop). This is no surprise as market leaders typically bid such that they come out with the best portfolio of spectrum – in order to continue to provide the highest quality service and maintain their share of premium customers.
TT-N (a consortium of Telia and Telenor who have a network sharing arrangement) acquired 30MHz of sub 1GHz spectrum but for a price of just DKK107.6 million (EUR0.08 per MHz per pop), a fraction of the price paid by TDC. It was important for TT-N to maintain a reasonable portfolio of spectrum and in return for accepting a smaller portfolio, it has secured a very advantageous price. Whilst the price of EUR0.08 per MHz per pop looks very low in terms of international benchmarks for sub 1-GHz spectrum, it should be kept in mind that 20MHz of the 30MHz of spectrum was acquired at zero price in return for meeting the coverage obligations attached to the licence.
Hi3G acquired 40MHz of sub-1GHz spectrum paying DKK485.2 million (EUR0.27 per MHz per pop). For Hi3G, it was important to acquire a larger amount of sub-1GHz spectrum as it did not acquire any 800MHz spectrum in 2012. In return, it was willing to pay a higher price than TT-N, but not the premium paid by TDC. By getting this spectrum package, Hi3G now has a more balanced portfolio of spectrum (mix of low and high frequencies) and should also be pleased with this outcome.
In theory, all auctions should be designed to maximise efficiency and should result in all participants being ‘happy’. This is because those acquiring spectrum will have done so at or below their valuation and those not acquiring spectrum/acquiring less spectrum will have done so knowing their next best alternative is more value-generating than paying the auction price. In practice however, this is not always the case. Especially in auctions where there is less transparency during the actual bidding process, participants can only compare their outcome with those of their competitors at the end and may then dislike their ‘relative’ position.
That being said, in the Danish case, despite the three very differing outcomes, we believe that all participants should be pleased with the outcome – one got lots of spectrum, one got all the spectrum they wanted and one paid very little.