LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's national regulator ANACOM said on Wednesday the main bidding phase of the country's long-awaited 5G auction has come to an end 200 days after it was launched, generating around 566 million euros ($657.1 million).
Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the auction of several spectrum lots was launched by ANACOM in January this year, despite legal challenges from major players who say the rules unfairly favoured new entrants.
The regulator allowed operators to raise their bids by just 1% above rival offers, creating a drawn-out process of incremental increases. Recognising a "very slow evolution", ANACOM changed the rule to require a minimum increase of 3% to speed up the process.
ANACOM recently came under fire from Prime Minister Antonio Costa himself, who said the regulator had caused a "huge delay" to Portugal's 5G progress.
Portugal and Lithuania are the only two EU countries that have not yet embarked on a commercial rollout of 5G technology.
"The main bidding phase of the 5G auction... ended today after 1,727 rounds," ANACOM said in a statement, adding the auction would now continue to the next phase to allocate usage rights to operators.
A "prior hearing of candidates and bidders" is set to take place before a final decision is made by ANACOM's board of directors, the regulator said.
Specific frequencies were allocated to six bidders, including Portuguese telecoms firms NOS and MEO, which together serve nearly all of Portugal's mobile customers.
"Thanks to the spectrum we acquired, we will guarantee the best 5G network, which will allow us to accelerate Portugal's transition to a more digital country," said NOS' CEO Miguel Almeida.
($1 = 0.8613 euros)
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Jan Harvey)