CMT to investigate FTE-Euskaltel face-off

27 Oct 2006

Spain’s Telecommunications Market Commission (CMT) has ruled that regional operator Euskaltel must continue to honour its joint venture mobile agreement with France Télécom España (FTE), whilst it investigates ownership of the venture’s customer base. FTE is engaged in a bitter feud with Euskatel over the 460,000 customers of Euskatel Móvil. Euskaltel is the largest alternative provider of fixed line telecoms service in the autonomous Basque region of northern Spain. In 1997 it struck an agreement with FTE (then known as Amena) to brand all FTE’s mobile services as Euskaltel Móvil in the Basque region. FTE took a stake in Euskaltel in return and the service was launched in January 1998. The agreement expires in early 2007 and the two companies were thought to have been in discussion to extend it and collaborate on the launch of 3G services. However, last month Euskaltel instead signed an agreement with FTE’s rival Vodafone Spain. The Vodafone agreement will replace the FTE deal and allow for Euskaltel Móvil to operate MVNO services nationwide over Vodafone’s network from January 2007. Euskaltel Móvil wants to transfer all 460,000 of its current customers to Vodafone’s infrastructure at that date, but FTE claims it has rightful ownership of the subscriber base and it wants them transferred to its Orange service, which it recently launched in the Basque region. The CMT says that Euskaltel must now continue to work with FTE whilst it investigates. It says it will make a decision on the conflict ‘with the utmost urgency’. Typically, such decisions are revealed in a matter of weeks.