VIENNA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Austria's telecoms regulator gave mobile operators until November to apply to take part in a 5G frequency auction scheduled to start next February.
The government wants Austria, a laggard in the European Union for fast broadband connections, to become a 5G pioneer in Europe.
It aims to use 5G to improve mobile coverage in remote and rural areas and help businesses connect cars, machines, cargo and crop equipment.
Frequencies in the 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band will be auctioned, regulator RTR said in details published on Wednesday.
The country's three major mobile network providers - Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim's A1 Telekom Austria , Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile Austria and Hutchison's Drei Austria - are allowed to bid for nationwide bands, RTR said.
The frequencies will be divided among 12 regions to also enable small regional providers to supply broadband to customers in more remote locations.
The maximum spectrum that can be awarded in each region will be capped at 160 MHz for A1 and at 190 MHz for all other parties, RTR said. Rights of use will be granted until the end of 2039.
Austria does not expect the auction to bring a repetition of the 2 billion euro ($2.34 billion) windfall from an auction of fourth generation frequencies in 2013 - a process that drew complaints from mobile operators.
As operators will have to build thousands of new antennas to make the network work, the regulator set the minimum bid at 30 million euros - much lower than the 530 million at the 2013 auction.
"We do not expect a result as in the previous auction in 2013," said RTR chief Johannes Gungl. "We set the minimum bids very carefully."
5G networks will offer data speeds up to 50 or 100 times faster than current 4G networks and serve as critical infrastructure for a range of industries.
In a first step, the Austrian government plans to have a 100 Mbit/s broadband network available in almost every corner of the mountainous, largely agricultural country by the end of 2020.
At the same time it plans to roll out 5G services in its nine provincial capitals.
Main traffic routes are planned to have 5G services available by the end of 2023, and the aim is to have "virtually nationwide" 5G coverage by the end of 2025.
Currently, Austria's coverage with fast broadband connections with at least 30 Mbit/s is at 24 percent, underperforming the EU average of 37 percent, according to the technology ministry. ($1 = 0.8554 euros)
Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Adrian Croft