Turkey: Reflections Of The "4.5G" Auction In Turkey

Last Updated: 7 September 2015
Article by Sahin Ardiyok and Hakan Demirkan

Turkish Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications had announced that the auction for 4G spectrum would be held on 26 May 2015 and that 4G technologies would be put into service towards the end of the year. Moreover, it had been stated that a new operator would participate in the auction along with the existing operators Vodafone, Avea and Turkcell. However, after Turkey's president Tayyip Erdogan said that "it is not necessary to waste time with 4G technologies" and that "Turkey should jump directly to 5G within 2 years", the scheduled auction was delayed by three months until 26 August 2015 as bidders claimed that they needed additional time for financial and technical preparations. Since then, the auction has been dubbed as "4.5G" by the public.

On 26 August 2015, the auction for IMT-Advanced Authorization was completed in Ankara. the Information and Communication Technologies Authority ("ICTA") conducted the auction. In the auction, a total bandwidth of 390 MHz was put up for auction and the ICTA set a minimum price of 2.3 billion euro for the 20 separate frequency packages of 800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz spectrum. Moreover, a new operator was invited to bid at the auction only for the 2600 MHz spectrum. Avea, Vodafone, Turkcell, Netgsm and Huawei are the companies which had bought the specifications document for the auction. However Huawei did not join the auction and Netgsm decided not to make any bids and thus was not qualified for the auction.

In the auction, the sealed bid procedure was applied and after the sealed bids, the parties submitted their verbal bids. The biggest winner of the auction is Turkcell, winning 8 of the 18 packages sold and 172 MHz of spectrum for 1.62 billion euro (VAT excluded) across all five available bands. On the other hand, Vodafone acquired 5 of the 18 packages and 82.8 MHz of spectrum for 778 million euro across all bands except 2100 MHz. Finally, Avea secured 5 of the 18 packages and 110 MHz of spectrum for 955 million euro. Two presented packages and 15 MHz of 2600 MHz spectrum have remained unsold in the auction.

In relation to details of the auction, A1, A2 and A3 packages were presented in the 800 MHz spectrum. Vodafone won the A1 package of 800 MHz spectrum for 390 million euro. Avea presented the highest bid for the A2 package and the A3 package was acquired by Turkcell.

Furthermore B1, B2 and B3 packages were presented in the 900 MHz spectrum and the winners, respectively, are Avea, Vodafone and Turkcell.

The winners of 1800 MHz are Turkcell for C1, Avea for C2 and Vodafone for C3 package. In addition to this, Turkcell won all three packages for 2100 MHz.

As to 2600 MHz spectrum, the highest bidders, respectively, are Turkcell for E1-F3, Vodafone for E2-F2 and Avea for E3-F1 packages. E4 and F4 packages have remained unsold.

After the completion of the auction, the bids will be submitted for the approval of ICTA and the final result will be announced. GSM and 3G concession agreements of the operators will be amended after the notification of final results. The licenses of the operators will be valid until 30 April 2029.

Following the auction, the current frequency allocated to mobile network operators increased from 183 MHz to 548 MHz. The frequency segments assigned with the auction will be put into service as of 1 April 2016. After the authorization, operators will be required to extend their coverage range up to 95 percent of Turkish population within 8 years.

In conclusion, Turkey has taken a big step in its telecommunications industry. The "4.5G" auction is not only intended for 4G technologies but also acts as a transition to 5G. Within this context explanations from ICTA indicate that Turkey is planning to be one of the first countries to adopt 5G technology. Moreover, the completion of the auction and launching of new technologies will re-shape the competitive structure of the broadband industry. In addition to that, considering the coverage obligations of operators imposed by the auction, the nation-wide coverage will be completed in the very near future.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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