Dutch officials contemplate barring KPN, T-Mobile and Vodafone from spectrum auction

A spectrum auction looms on the horizon in the Netherlands, but three of the country's largest players may be excluded from participation. As you know, earlier this week, Dutch authorities raided the offices of KPN Mobile, T-Mobile Netherlands and Vodafone Netherlands in a price-fixing investigation. The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), which carried out the raid, stressed that its visit does not mean the operators are guilty of collusion or hint at the outcome of its investigation.

Now, Dutch lawmakers and the country's Minister of Economic Affairs must come to a decision about the auction that's set to take place in the spring of 2012 -- which is likely to be well in advance of any final report from the NMa. One option tossed around has been to postpone the auction, though, as lawmakers point out, this could hinder the development in the mobile space and further limit competition. Alternately, had any of the named companies actually profited from the alleged collusion, there's a risk that these monies could be used to purchase additional spectrum and further extend their dominance. Those discussing the matter hope to move quickly, though it certainly seems difficult to make any decision of this magnitude lightly.