ANACOM increases spectrum for national operations and creates conditions which maximise benefits of 5G for users and promote the development of competition

ANACOM has approved the final decision on the designation of the 700 MHz band for electronic communications services, on the limitation of the number of rights 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 (auction).

According to ANACOM's decision, the auction to be held in Portugal will include, on a notably broad basis and on a larger scale than has been possible in other EU countries, two bands that are considered pioneering for 5G: the 700 MHz band, suitable for providing transition to next generation mobile networks and coverage in different areas, and the 3.6 GHz (3.4-3.8 GHz) band, capable of providing the capacity needed for services supported by 5G systems.

The fact that the upcoming auction will also cover available spectrum in several other bands of interest to mobile operations (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz) means that Portugal will benefit from conditions which, within the European framework, will be especially conducive, and even comparatively advantageous, for the consistent and competitive development of electronic communications and, in particular, fifth generation mobile connectivity.

Taking into account the contributions received in response to the preceding public consultation, the decision removes provision for regional lots in the spectrum to be allocated in the 3.6 GHz band; as a result, spectrum available for national operations is increased to 400 MHZ. Meanwhile, lot size is reduced from 20 MHz to 10 MHz, increasing the number of lots available at auction and giving operators greater flexibility in the choice of spectrum to be acquired.

Considering the Portuguese and European regulatory framework, as well as the positions expressed in the public consultations held in 2018, ANACOM considers it appropriate and proportionate to make available the spectrum shown in the table below, in line with the principles of technological and service neutrality.

With a view to ensuring the efficient use of frequencies, maximizing benefits for users and promoting the development of competition, while taking into account the preferences expressed by stakeholders in the public consultation, ANACOM also saw fit to limit the number of rights to be allocated for the use of frequencies in line 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

400 MHz (TDD)

10 MHz (national)

These rights of use of frequencies will be allocated by means of an auction - a procedure suited to the allocation of large amounts of spectrum and a procedure that is potentially more transparent and objective for all stakeholders. As a mechanism, an auction is less disruptive to business plans, since each undertaking is able to acquire the amount of spectrum it actually needs and values. As such, the intention is to support the emergence of operations of different dimensions, ensuring the viability of a range of business models, stimulating efficient use of spectrum and reducing motivation for inefficient allocations.

With this decision, ANACOM has accomplished, within the prescribed deadline, the first objective of the indicative timetable released in October for the allocation of relevant licences for 5G (700 MHz and 3.6 GHz) and others (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz):

ANACOM has accomplished, within the prescribed deadline, for the allocation of relevant licences for 5G (700 MHz and 3.6 GHz) and others (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz).

As a result, Portugal will be one of the Member States to meet the targets set out in the Declaration of EU Telecommunications Ministers of 4 December 2017 as particularly relevant to the accomplishment of the 5G objectives:

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

ANACOM also seeks to provide an effective and consistent response to objectives defined at a national level, in particular in the Digital Agenda for Portugal (approved in 2012 and updated in 2015). The Digital Agenda for Portugal lays out a series of objectives, especially on the promotion of info-inclusion and increased broadband coverage and access, with targets broadly in line with those set out in the roadmap for the introduction of 5G in Europe. Likewise, PNPOT - Programa Nacional de Planeamento e Ordenamento do Território (National Programme for Territorial Planning and Management), updated by Law no. 99/2019 of 5 September, incorporates measures designed to strengthen provision of broadband services at a national level (particularly in rural areas) and the development of support networks for wireless broadband electronic communications services, with a view to the implementation of 5G. This transformation will also support the modernisation of Portugal’s productive fabric.

At a European level, there are also demanding targets for the development of a “Gigabit Society” in 2025, in particular the goal that all households have access to 100 Mbps by that date.

In response to the public consultation held prior to this decision, ANACOM received a wide range of contributions on the subjects set out in annex to the draft decision. These contributions will be duly considered in the context of defining the conditions to be attached to the allocation and use of the Rights of Use of Frequencies, which will form part of the draft auction regulation to be submitted to public consultation. These contributions relate to the conditions that are to be imposed and associated with the use of spectrum to be auctioned, including: limitations on spectrum allocation; network access obligations (including obligations of network access for Mobile Virtual Network Operators), infrastructure sharing obligations (which may take the form of national roaming); coverage obligations; spectrum reserves; reserve prices, and other issues.

ANACOM also approved two decisions related to the radio spectrum, as reported below.

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

The final decision on the amendment of the Right of Use of Frequencies 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, was simultaneously approved by ANACOM .

Defragmenting the band by reconfiguring the block size (e.g. the spectrum it holds in Lisbon is reduced from 168 MHz to 100 MHz) and relocating the Right of Use of Frequencies held by Dense Air to the lower end of the band will allow more efficient use of the spectrum for the benefit of all undertakings that may gain access to this spectrum in the meantime.

Since this band is considered a priority for the implementation of 5G services and applications, ANACOM considers that there is justification in making the 400 MHz which exists in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band available to the market in its entirety. As a result, the Right of Use of Frequencies held by Dense Air ceases to be effective following its expiry (August 2025).

This decision allows Dense Air to continue to operate its Right of Use of Frequencies until 2025, with less spectrum and with application of the technical conditions of use set out in Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/235, enabling formation of a critical judgment as regards development of the network and the commercial launch of services and as regards respective schedules, including possible participation in the future procedure for the allocation of Rights of Use of Frequencies in this spectrum.

Even while the operation is at an early stage, in part due to circumstances related to the availability of 5G equipment and infrastructure, it involves a series of initiatives, especially at wholesale level, and partnerships that may have some relevance in the context of 5G networks and services; as such, it was deemed disproportionate to consider an early revocation of the Right of Use of Frequencies held by Dense Air at this stage.

ANACOM concluded that other mechanisms are available to ensure a level playing field in the market, with less impact on the company's position; such is the case of the present decision to make the entire 400 MHz available in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band as part of the future procedure to allocate Rights of Use of Frequencies and with the amendment foreseen, in this context, of the Rights of Use of Frequencies held by Dense Air in order to incorporate non-discriminatory and proportionate conditions of use in accordance with the public interest objectives that may be defined for the band.

Request by NOS for allocation of frequencies in the 900 MHz and 2100 MHz bands

ANACOM also decided to grant a request received from NOS seeking allocation of spectrum in the 900 MHz band and to reject the request for spectrum allocation in the 2.1 GHz band.

Regarding the request for spectrum in the 900 MHz band (2 blocks of 2x100 kHz) and given the small amount involved, ANACOM does not identify any obstacles preventing allocation of this spectrum to NOS with full accessibility. However, this allocation will only take effect following allocation of the Rights of Use of Frequencies which are acquired under the future auction of the 700 MHz band and other relevant bands, including the 900 MHz band.

As regards the spectrum requested in the 2.1 GHz band, this is spectrum that was voluntarily returned by NOS in 2012; as such, the company has no entitlement to its “restitution”. Since it is unknown whether there are other parties interested in this spectrum, and it is unknown specifically whether it may be relevant for any new operation (even if complemented by other spectrum) or if it may be relevant in enhancing an existing operation, ANACOM considers it appropriate to include this spectrum (2x5 MHz) in the future allocation procedure in the 700 MHz band and other relevant bands.