Tele2 is confident of launching Spain’s first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) before the end of this year, a company spokeswoman told local news sources. The Swedish-owned operator is one of several companies in possession of an MVNO licence, but none have yet reached an agreement to lease the networks of the country’s incumbent cellcos – Telefónica Móviles España (TME), Vodafone Spain (formerly Airtel) and France Télécom España, which operates as Amena. However, Tele2 says it is currently in negotiations with all three operators and it hopes to seal a deal by September, paving the way for a December launch.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, the path towards the launch of MVNOs in Spain has been a long and tedious process. In May 2002 the Telecommunications Market Commission (CMT) passed legislation governing the setting up of MVNO agreements, and in May 2005 it awarded MVNO licences to Tele2, BT Group of the UK and Spanish companies Jazztel, Grupalia Internet and Meflur Comunicarte; cable operator TeleCable received an MVNO concession in December 2005. However, the incumbent cellcos have been dragging their heels and refusing to make their networks available to MVNOs. In January 2006 the CMT looked to the European Commission for support in its attempts to get the operators to comply, presenting a report criticising all three incumbents. The EC agreed, saying that the CMT had ably demonstrated that the market was not competitive and that the three operators hold a position of collective dominance. Consequently it has backed the CMT to impose on TME, Vodafone and Amena an obligation to provide access and origination services to MVNOs. With Brussels’ backing, the CMT hopes the first MVNOs will make an appearance in the second half of 2006 and has said it will intervene if no network sharing deals are signed by October. However, the incumbents have yet to acquiesce. Amena has launched an appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court, claiming that the regulator does not have the authority to unilaterally impose conditions for MVNOs to gain access to wireless operators’ networks.