Free 3G for Tus causes fuss

16 Apr 2008

The Slovenian government has authorised the award of the country’s fourth 3G mobile licence free of charge to Tusmobil, part of the Tus Telekom group owned by domestic entrepreneur Mirko Tus. The Post and Electronic Communications Agency (APEK) said that it issued the licence without public tender and at no cost to Tus because of the lack of any other interested parties; the operator will only have to pay annual fees. Tusmobil was the sole company to submit an application for a 2GHz W-CDMA concession following an invitation from APEK last December. Slovenia’s mobile market leader Mobitel paid USD87 million for the country’s first UMTS licence in November 2001, and Si.Mobil and T-2 paid much lower fees of USD8.2 million and USD8 million respectively for their 3G concessions in September 2006 (at historical exchange rates). Si.Mobil responded to the news of Tus’s win by saying that it was considering legal action on the basis that awarding frequencies outside of a formal tender is not common practice in the EU. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Tusmobil gained its GSM mobile network operating licence and frequencies as a result of US-based Western Wireless International (Vega) shutting down its Slovenian network in May 2006. In October 2007 Tus launched a limited scope GSM/GPRS network, with nationwide roaming provided courtesy of Mobitel. Mirko Tus, who is head of retail group EngroTus, also bought fixed line, broadband and mobile operator Voljatel in November 2006, bringing it under the Tus Telekom banner. Tusmobil’s sister MVNO Volja Mobil was launched under the Izimobil brand in late 2005, also over Mobitel’s network.