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What rules and procedures govern spectrum allocation?

In general, any use of spectrum requires a prior allocation of the spectrum by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA).

The allocation of spectrum is governed by the Telecoms Act, the Frequency Ordinance and the frequency usage plan.

Spectrum allocations will always be made for specific purposes as set out in the Frequency Ordinance. The use of spectrum for non-designated purposes is not permitted.

If sufficient spectrum is available for a specific purpose, allocations will be made for the general public by publication in the BNetzA’s Official Gazette. If the demand for spectrum in a specific band is higher than availability, the BNetzA may tender or auction spectrum to the interested parties.

Spectrum allocations are usually limited in time. If spectrum is allocated individually, the term will be decided by the BNetzA, but is usually 10 years. Spectrum allocations for the public for specific purposes are not limited in time; however, the BNetzA has discretion to revoke the allocation based on the interests of users.

The BNetzA published a so-called ‘spectrum compass’ in July 2016. The aim is to provide an overview of the existing frequency-regulating fields of action. The usage rights of spectrum in the 2 gigahertz (GHz) and 3.5GHz bands will be allocated by the end of 2020 and 2021/2022, respectively. According to the spectrum compass, this spectrum is needed to expand digital infrastructures and for the introduction of 5G. The 3.5GHz band is of particular interest for the introduction of 5G, since a lot of spectrum is available there. 


What fees apply to spectrum allocation/authorisation?

The BNetzA charges fees and contributions for spectrum assignment and usage. The exact charges are listed in the Frequency Fee Ordinance and the Frequency Protection Contributions Ordinance. 


Can spectrum licences be transferred, traded or sub-licensed?

The right to use a specific spectrum cannot be transferred, traded or sub-licensed. It is possible to transfer a licence only through the merger of an entity which holds the right to use. Even in these cases, an application regarding the amendment in the right to use has to filed with the BNetzA. The BNetzA may prohibit further use if the requirements for granting a right to use are no longer given or if competition is reduced significantly by the merger.

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