Does spectrum auctioning harm consumers? Lessons from 3G licensing

Minsoo Park, Sang Woo Lee, Yong Jae Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Although the auctioning spectrum is generally considered to be highly successful, many countries still rely on beauty contests to assign spectrums. This is often attributed to the negative perceptions about the potential problems that auctions may cause, such as high licensing fees, high consumer prices, a lower incentive to invest in infrastructure, and concerns about market concentration.To address these negative perceptions, this paper estimates the effects of the auctions and the licensing fees for the 3G spectrum on consumer prices, the timing of a new service launch, and the market structure using data from the mobile markets of 21 OECD countries. Although our study uses a relatively small sample and a simple methodology, the results are meaningful since it examines a single service (3G) in OECD countries. Some of these countries have adopted auctions while others have used the traditional beauty contest approach. This combination provides a natural experiment to evaluate the impact of auctions on the mobile telecommunications market.The estimation results show no evidence to support claims of negative effects of spectrum auctions in the mobile communications market. This study calls for more positive action toward spectrum auctions in many countries who seek to improve the efficiency and transparency of spectrum assignment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-126
Number of pages9
JournalInformation Economics and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Mar

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to express our appreciation to Dong-Min Lim and Il-Joo Lee of the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) for their help in collecting data. This Research was supported by the Chung-Ang University Research Grants in 2011 (M. Park). This research was supported by the Korea Communications Commission, Korea, under the Communications Policy Research Center support program supervised by the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA; NIPA-2010-(C1091-1001-0005) (S. W. Lee). This work was supported by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Research Fund of 2010 (Y. J. Choi).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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