The auction of 35 licences will raise a European WiMax record of €136.3 million (NZ$260 million) for the Italian government, Communications Minister Paolo Gentiloni has announced. The ninth round of bidding, with bids showing a 176% increase on the starting offers, the minister said.
The biggest winner in the auction was the relatively little-known AriaDSL SpA, which secured licences in all Italian regions for a total of €47.5 million, the Communications Ministry says. The company is reportedly controlled by Israeli billionaire David Gilo, founder of Vyyo, a Norcross, Georgia, company selling equipment for wireless high-speed data connections to businesses and homes.
The second-biggest spender was AFT SpA, a company providing wi-fi hotspots around Italy, which paid €34.4 million for licenses in all Italian regions. The former telecom incumbent Telecom Italia snapped up licenses in central and southern Italy for a more modest €13.8 million. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset media group, Wind and Fastweb were among the major players to pull out before the end of the auction.
The auction of the WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) 3.5GHz radio frequencies, previously used for military communications, is intended to combat the digital divide in Italy and encourage the entry of smaller companies into the telecom market. The technology, which delivers speeds of 3Mbit/s to 5Mbit/s for downloads and 1Mbit/s to 1.5Mbit/s for uploads, is considered ideal for bringing mobile broadband communications to remote rural and mountainous areas.