By Stephen Jewkes
MILAN (Reuters) - Telecom Italia (TIM) <TLIT.MI> has spent 2.41 billion euros (2.16 billion pounds) in Italy's fifth-generation mobile auction in a move expected to raise debt at the former telecom monopolist.
TIM said in a statement it had spent more on spectra and won more bandwidth than its competitors as it looks to gain an edge in rolling out new digital services and networks.
It said it expected to pay out around 480 million euros of the overall amount this year.
"The new frequencies acquired represent a fundamental asset for the future development of the group," TIM CEO Amos Genish said.
TIM's competitor Vodafone Italy <VOD.L> spent nearly as much, buying airwaves in three frequency ranges for a total of 2.4 billion euros. It said some of the airwaves it bought could be immediately used to enhance coverage and improve capacity.
TIM, whose biggest shareholder is French media giant Vivendi <VIV.PA>, faces increasing competition at home after the entry of French mobile operator Iliad and Open Fiber's decision to roll out a new ultrafast fibre network across Italy.
It is also facing headwinds from currency devaluation in Brazil and a bitter dispute between Vivendi and activist shareholder Elliott.
In a note on Monday, Barclays said the 5G bids had reached levels "well beyond our expectations" and expressed concern about mounting debt at TIM.
A Moody's analyst told Reuters on Friday that ban expected increase in TIM's debt pile after the 5G auction would not impact its rating.
Italy is one of the first countries in Europe to offer frequencies for 5G services, allowing operators to roll out ultra-fast internet connections to Italian homes and businesses.
The Italian Industry Ministry said on Tuesday the auction had raised a total of 6.55 billion euros for state coffers, well above the 2.5 billion euros minimum target it had set.
The ministry said the final amount raised was 164 percent more than the value of initial offers.
(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Edmund Blair)