Five Italian telecom operators request spot in mobile frequency auction

Reuters

Five Italian telecom operators have submitted requests to participate in an auction of new fourth-generation mobile frequencies, Italy's industry ministry said on Wednesday.

All major Italian mobile phone operators, former monopoly Telecom Italia , Vodafone , Wind, 3 Italia, and the Linkem group showed interest, the ministry said.

Italy's government is banking on the auction to raise about $3.5 billion for its budget and forecasted that it could raise as much as $4.5 billion if all frequencies are sold.

The government will declare those admitted to the auction by July 29 and they will then have a month to present their offers.

Speculation had also centered on possible interest from other contenders like Italy's post office, Poste Italiane, which operates its own mobile division.

Egyptian businessman Naguid Sawiris, who sold Wind this year to Russia's Vimpelcom, urged the Italian government earlier this month to delay the auction because of the financial crisis and weak economic landscape.

He said the government risked a poor showing given financial constraints on banks and companies during a period of economic malaise and that Italy should at least consider allowing operators to make payments in installments.

(Reporting by Deepa Babington; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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