Carriers go Dutch on IoT roaming and spectrum leasing in the Netherlands
The Dutch business regulation agency, the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), has ruled mobile operators in the Netherlands can collaborate on radio spectrum and network infrastructure to safeguard and promote IoT roaming, as well as to lease local spectrum to enterprises and share real estate for masts.
It has argued that closer collaboration between KPN, T-Mobile, and VodafoneZiggo, the national operators in the Netherlands, in all three scenarios will lead to a faster rollout of mobile networks and services, and drive competition. It said mobile data consumption was “more than 10 times” higher than five years ago, and that efficient investment in mobile infrastructure to improve “capacity, quality, and coverage” is the name of the game.
The new rule on IoT roaming relates to legacy M2M services, and is designed to counter the potential impact of 2G and 3G shutdowns in the “next few years”. It said more than 7.5 million M2M devices were still running on 2G and 3G in the Netherlands last year, mostly in smart energy meters or emergency contact systems in cars.
Allowing these services to roam onto rival infrastructure, in the event their host networks are retired, will buy time to migrate onto LTE- and 5G-based cellular IoT networks. ACM reasoned: “If an operator [which] shuts down a 2G or 3G network is able to use, through roaming, the network of another operator that still offers 2G or 3G, there will be more time to migrate these devices to 4G or 5G.”
Meanwhile, the new Dutch Telecommunications Act will allow the three national mobile operators to lease spectrum to “operators of local business networks” to drive “new services and increased competition”. The country’s auction of new spectrum for 5G services last summer saw KPN, T-Mobile, and VodafoneZiggo gain 26 separate licenses, for €1.23 billion ($1.42 billion) between them.
The new licences cover a variety of holdings in the 700 MHz, 1,400 MHz and 2100 MHz bands. The terms of the auction stipulated none of the trio could have access to no more than 40 percent of the available frequencies. “This cap will ensure that, in general, competition will not be jeopardised,” it said. The new rule on leasing to third parties will bring innovation into the enterprise market, it reasoned, with more bespoke regional services.
The move on spectrum leasing looks like a short-term fix until the country makes so-called ‘vertical’ spectrum available for local use at 3400-3450 MHz and 3750-3800 MHz after 2022, mostly for private LTE and 5G networks, as part of the scheduled 3.6 GHz auction to re-farm the satellite band.
As well, it has said national operators should collaborate on mast sites to promptly expand LTE and 5G infrastructure in the country, citing “needed growth in the number of mobile antennas, and decreasing availability of locations”.
It said: “ACM does not expect that, within the boundaries set out in the guidelines, competition between operators of mobile services will be jeopardized if they start working together in order to find locations for masts. Operators are still able to differentiate themselves sufficiently from their competitors, because they offer their services completely independently, and have their own roll-out strategies, spectrums, and networks.”