FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bidding slowed on Wednesday in Germany's 5G mobile spectrum auction, and with offers from the four companies taking part totalling just 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) it could end up being the cheapest ever.
That sum is less than half the amount raised in the last spectrum auction in 2015 and a tiny fraction of the 50 billion euros spent on the 3G auction of 2000 that forced some players out of the market and others to merge.
Results from the 118th round of the auction https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/_tools/FrequenzXml/Auktion2019_XML/118.html;jsessionid=E63E2FD08872677D72E48735A476D2BC, being held at an old army barracks in the western city of Mainz, showed fresh bids for only 5 of the 41 spectrum blocks that are on offer in the 2GHz and 3.6GHz bands.
The auction, which began on March 19, ends if no fresh bids are entered.
Analysts had forecast that proceeds could be as low as 3 billion euros, while cautioning that the entry of tycoon Ralph Dommermuth's 1&1 Drillisch as a fourth player could drive spectrum costs higher.
Drillisch is vying with Germany's three existing operators - Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland for spectrum that could deliver ultra-fast wireless broadband to the home or run automated factories.
According to the latest results, Deutsche Telekom was leading in 12 blocks, Telefonica and Drillisch in 10 each, and Vodafone in nine.
Shares in Drillisch, and its listed parent United Internet, rose on Wednesday by around 5 percent as traders took the view that the cost of becoming Germany's fourth network operator could be less than earlier feared.
Deutsche Telekom traded flat while Telefonica Deutschland added 1.6 percent on the day. ($1 = 0.8890 euros)
(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; editing by David Evans)