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Vivacom, A1 Bulgaria and Telenor win 5G spectrum

Woman tourist photographing with smart phone the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria

Bulgarian regulator CRC completes 5G auction in the 3.6 GHz band. The auction took only one day and seven bidding rounds. Each of the country’s main mobile operators – Vivacom, A1 Bulgaria and Telenorgained 100 MHz. The state will collect a total of BGN 13.4m (USD 8.1m) for the three 20-year licences. The licensees can thus now proceed with a nationwide 5G rollout.

Bulgarian regulator CRC distributed 3×100 MHz spectrum in the 5G pioneer band – 3400-3800 MHz – to three mobile network operators (MNOs). It is necessary to say that this was already the second attempt to conduct the 5G auction – this time successful.

Three MNOs serving the Bulgarian market, Vivacom, A1 and Telenor, secured 100 MHz spectrum each. Although the ambitions of the first two were higher. Vivacom wanted three blocks and A1 wanted two blocks. Telenor aspired for one block only.

The regulator’s original idea was to hold an auction in mid-March. However, it changed its mind after having received the applications from the bidders and decided to award one block to each applicant without an auction. A1, from Austria’s A1 group, and Telenor, owned by the Czech investment group PPF, were happy with the distribution. However, Vivacom, controlled by United Group, did not like that decision of CRC and contested it at a court.

A lengthy legal proceeding would significantly delay the 5G rollout in the country. CRC saw that the only way out of this situation would be holding the auction eventually if all applicants agreed.

The auction took place on 6 April 2021 and it needed only seven bidding rounds to end. As a result, Vivacom gained the spectrum range 3700-3800 MHz for BGN 4.6m, A1 won 3600-3700 MHz for BGN 4.7m and Telenor 3500-3600 MHz for BGN 4.1m. The licences will be valid for 20 years.

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