ANACOM creates conditions for consistent and competitive development of 5G in Portugal

ANACOM approved a draft decision on the designation of the 700 MHz band for electronic communications services, the limitation of the number of right of use of frequencies to be allocated in the 700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands and the definition of the respective allocation procedure, the auction.

This complies with the European Union (EU) strategy for the Digital Single Market, which recommended coordinated introduction at EU level to encourage investment in high-speed broadband networks and to facilitate the proliferation of advanced digital services, in particular by highlighting the need to ensure the provision of broadband services in rural areas.

Bearing in mind the national and European regulatory framework, as well as the positions expressed in the public consultation held in 2018, in accordance with the principles of technological and service neutrality, ANACOM considers it appropriate and proportionate to make available the spectrum shown in the table below.

In order to ensure the efficient use of the frequencies, maximise the benefits for users and promote the development of competition, and taking account of the level of demand evidenced in the public consultation, ANACOM believes that it should limit the number of rights to be granted for the use of the frequencies concerned, in accordance with the following table.


Quantity of Spectrum

Lot size

700 MHz

2 x 30 MHz (FDD)

2 x 5 MHz

900 MHz

2 x 5 MHz (FDD) + 2 x 3 MHz (FDD) + 2 x 1 MHz (FDD)

2 x 5 MHz and 2 x 1 MHz

1800 MHz

2 x 15 MHz (FDD)

2 x 5 MHz

2.1 GHz

2 x 5 MHz (FDD)

2 x 5 MHz

2.6 GHz

2 x 10 MHz (FDD) + 25 MHz (TDD)

2 x 5 MHz

25 MHz

3.6 GHz

20 x 20 MHz (TDD)

20 MHz (national and regional)

The allocation of these frequency usage rights should be subject to an auction procedure, as this is a potentially more transparent and objective process for all stakeholders and less intrusive in terms of their business plans, as it allows all the entities, which have their own spectrum needs, to acquire the amount of spectrum they actually need and value. Thus, the plan is to enable the emergence of operations of different dimensions, stimulating the efficient use of the spectrum and reducing the motivation for unsystematic allocation of these resources.

It should be noted that the proposed auction to be held in Portugal will have the great advantage of allowing the inclusion, on a broader and larger scale than has been possible in other EU countries, two bands that are considered pioneering for 5G: the 700 MHz band, suitable for transitioning to the next generation of mobile networks and coverage in different areas and the 3.6 GHz (3.4 3.8 GHz) range, capable of providing the necessary capacity for services supported on 5G systems.

ANACOM intends to allocate the relevant licences for 5G (700 MHz and 3.6 GHz) and other licences (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHZ) according to the following indicative timetable:

ANACOM intends to allocate the relevant licences for 5G (700 MHz and 3.6 GHz) and other licences (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHZ) according to this indicative timetable.

As a result, Portugal will be one of the Member States that will fulfil the various goals set out in the EU Telecommunications Ministers' Declaration as particularly relevant to the achievement of the 5G objectives:

  • 2020: allocation of the 700 MHz in most MS;
  • 2020: availability of 5G in at least one city in each MS;
  • 2022: availability of the 700 MHz band in all MS;
  • 2018-2025: implementation of 5G networks/infrastructure;
  • 2025: “Gigabit Society” (5G available in major cities and along major transportation routes).

ANACOM also aims to provide an effective and consistent response to the objectives defined at national level, in particular in the Digital Agenda for Portugal, adopted in 2012 and updated in 2015, which includes a set of objectives, specifically involving the promotion of digital inclusion and the reinforcement of coverage and broadband access, among others, the goals of which are broadly in line with those set out in the roadmap for the introduction of 5G in Europe, and more recently, the National Programme for Spatial Planning Policy (PNPOT), updated by Law 99/2019, of 5 September, which incorporates measures to strengthen broadband services at national level, in particular in rural areas and the development of networks supporting wireless broadband electronic communications services, in view of the implementation of 5G. Transformation that likewise enables the modernisation of the productive fabric of the country.

It should also be noted that there are also highly demanding objectives defined at European level for the development of a “Gigabit Society” in 2025, with particular emphasis on the goal of all households having access to 100 Mbps at that date.

Within the framework of this draft decision, ANACOM also takes the opportunity to submit for the consideration of the market its reflection on the conditions that should be imposed on access and associated with the use of the spectrum to be auctioned, in order to ensure greater contestability of the mobile market and, at the same time, increase efforts to improve the living conditions of the general population and the economic fabric of the country, making digital access more accessible and closer, with expected benefits for economic, social and territorial cohesion.

Therefore, it should be noted that the imposition of spectrum caps is one of the measures that can be used to fulfil the objectives of public interest that are pursued with the allocation procedure under preparation. In particular, this measure could be adopted to safeguard competition in the market, while allowing conditions to be created for various operations in the market, possibly including new entrants, and preventing spectrum hoarding, in particular in view of the counterproductive effect this may have on foreclosure of the market. It is noted that, generally, spectrum allocation limits have been used by MS in 5G auctions.

Given that spectrum is a scarce resource, and given that this case concerns the issue of right of use of frequencies (RUF) under an auction procedure, such allocation must be accompanied by the setting of obligations aimed at meeting the public interest objectives ANACOM is mandated to pursue.

Therefore, ANACOM considers that the imposition of network access obligations should be considered. These obligations aim, inter alia, to promote the market entry of new entities and the emergence of new business models, in particular benefiting those who have no spectrum, who choose not to acquire spectrum or who have not managed to obtain the spectrum necessary for a viable operation.

In this context, they may result in network access obligations for mobile virtual network operators and may be imposed on entities that obtain significant amounts of spectrum or that accumulate frequencies across several bands, or that accumulate these new acquisitions with previously obtained RUF.

But they may also be reflected by infrastructure sharing obligations, which may take the form of national roaming, facilitating the implementation of networks not only of new players, but also already established entities. In a context of 5G network and application development, the savings that will be gained by sharing will add value to the market and necessarily to end users, who will be able to benefit more quickly from the networks and services offered using the frequency bands to be made available.

In particular, ANACOM considers that the imposition of national roaming obligations should be considered, in particular in sparsely populated areas, considering that this is relevant to the fulfilment of social and economic inclusion objectives, the economy of means allowing services to arrive in areas that would otherwise not be covered by multiple operators.

At the same time, in view of the public interest objectives to be pursued, ANACOM considers it essential that consideration should be given to setting coverage obligations to promote the expansion of the mobile networks, enhancing competition and ensuring the diversity of supply, essential for creating benefits for end users. In this regard, it is important to recall the gaps that still exist in the coverage of mobile networks, not only in terms of broadband services, but also voice services, which are the subject of frequent complaints by members of the public, and also by local officials.

This draft decision shall be subject to a general public consultation procedure for a period of 20 working days.

ANACOM has also approved other draft decisions related to the radio spectrum, as set forth below.

Amendment of the licence of Dense Air and future use of the 3.4-3.8 GHz band

ANACOM also approved a draft decision on the amendment of the Frequency Usage Rights currently held by Dense Air in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band, leading to a reconfiguration and relocation of the spectrum held by the company.

This amendment, as has been acknowledged by the company itself, does not render unfeasible its commercial operations, and it is expected that this change will contribute to the overall spectral efficiency of the domestic 5G market and will be equally beneficial to Portuguese consumers, whose experience is expected to improve.

Moreover, the breaking up of the band by reconfiguring the size of the blocks (for example the spectrum it holds in Lisbon has been reduced from 168 MHz to 100 MHz) and the relocation of the Dense Air RUF to the lower end of the band, will allow more efficient use of the spectrum for the benefit of all entities that, in the meantime, may access this band. The possibility of holding contiguous blocks of spectrum will allow companies to cut costs, for example those associated with the equipment needed to develop their networks, which will enable them to leverage their investments and will have an impact on service innovation for the benefit of end users.

As this band is considered a priority for the implementation of 5G services and applications, ANACOM believes that it is justified in making available to the market all the 400 MHz existing in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band, as a result of which the frequency usage rights held by Dense Air shall cease to be effective on the expiry date, i.e. 5 August 2025.

This decision thus allows Dense Air to continue to exercise its RUF until 2025, in accordance with the reconfiguration requested by it and explained above, i.e. reducing the amount of spectrum and applying the technical conditions of use set out in Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/235, and may form a critical judgment regarding the development of the network and the commercial launch of the services and their respective timetables, including in terms of possible participation in the future RUF allocation procedure concerning this spectrum, notwithstanding the fact that the conditions and rules of this procedure are yet to be established.

This is an operation that, although still at an early stage, not least due to the circumstances associated with the availability of 5G equipment and infrastructure, involves some initiatives, namely at wholesale level, and partnerships that may have some relevance in the context of 5G networks and services. The consideration of early revocation of Dense Air’s RUF appears disproportionate at this stage, bearing in mind that other mechanisms/options may be considered to ensure a level playing field in the market that affect to a lesser degree the subjective position of the company, as is understood to be the case in the present decision to make all 400 MHz in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band available in the future RUF allocation procedure.

The purpose of this draft decision is to provide the market, including Dense Air itself, with greater regulatory predictability with regard to spectrum use in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band.

This draft decision shall be subject to a general public consultation procedure and prior hearing of Dense Air for a period of 20 working days.

ANACOM revokes RUF held by MEO for operation of FWA system

In the wake of MEO’s decision to discontinue its fixed wireless access (FWA) operation, having reported at the end of July 2019 that it no longer had customers in this system, ANACOM has decided to revoke its frequency usage rights for operation of that system.

Under these circumstances, ANACOM believes that the granting of MEO's request does not adversely affect the public interest underlying the allocation of the frequencies concerned, as a result of which nothing precludes the company’s request from being granted. Additionally, granting this request will make it easier to make this band available under the terms of and in accordance with the timetables set out in the applicable EU instruments, bearing in mind that it has been flagged as a pioneering band for the operation of next generation wireless networks (5G) under the overall Europe-wide connectivity target.

NOS request for frequency allocation in the 900 MHz and 2100 MHz bands

ANACOM also approved a DD under which it grants a request from NOS for spectrum allocation in the 900 MHz band, but not directly and immediately as the company wished, and rejected a request for spectrum allocation in the 2.1GHz band.

Regarding the request for spectrum in the 900 MHz (2x200 kHz) band, ANACOM has not identified any obstacles to the allocation to NOS of such spectrum under the full accessibility regime, but this allocation will only take effect after the allocation of such RUF as may be acquired under the forthcoming auction of the 700 MHz band and other relevant bands, including the 900 MHz band.

As for the spectrum requested in the 2.1 GHz band, this spectrum was voluntarily returned by the company in 2012, and ANACOM believes that NOS has no right to its “reinstatement”. Not knowing whether there are other parties interested in this spectrum, specifically whether it may be relevant for some form of new operation (even if complemented by another spectrum) or whether it may be relevant to bolster an existing operation, ANACOM deems it appropriate to include the available spectrum in this band (2x5 MHz) in a future procedure for the allocation of the 700 MHz band and other relevant bands.

This draft decision shall be subject to a general public consultation procedure and prior hearing of NOS for a period of 20 working days.

ANACOM has been authorising 5G tests

Since 2017, ANACOM has authorised the use of radio spectrum to carry out technical tests and scientific studies using various technologies, namely those that will contribute to the launch of 5G in Portugal - see paragraph 3 of Article 5 of Decree-Law 151-A/2000, of 20 July, in its current wording.

This Authority has considered this type of testing and technical study to be of great added value, as it enables researchers, manufacturers and operators of electronic communications to test the various features and capabilities of these technologies as well as refine their theoretical models before moving on to the implementation of future 5G networks, with the consequent provision of services to consumers.

In 2017, Vodafone and Altice Labs developed trials in the 27.5-28.5 GHz range to test and demonstrate the capabilities of the new technologies in Lisbon and Aveiro, respectively.

Then, in 2018, Huawei performed tests in the 3.7-3.8 GHz band to demonstrate 5G solutions under the “Huawei 5G Demo Truck”, in Lisbon.

Also since 2018, and during 2019, the electronic communications operators MEO, NOS and Vodafone have been conducting a series of technical tests, scientific studies and demonstrations in the context of practical use, based on 4G technologies and, more recently, also using new 5G technologies to test their potential and new features. These tests and studies, with a broad territorial scope and covering diverse geographical areas, subject to prior coordination between the interested parties and ANACOM, mainly use the spectrum at 3.6-3.8 GHz, one of the pioneering bands for 5G which has been harmonised across Europe.

These technical trials and scientific studies, facilitated and supported by ANACOM, are believed to make a significant contribution towards supporting the development of the economy and, consequently, of the wider society.