Orange, Vodafone granted one-year licence extensions; ANCOM to auction off 900MHz, 1800MHz spectrum in 2012

3 Jan 2012

Romanian telecoms regulator ANCOM has confirmed that mobile operators Orange Romania and Vodafone Romania will have their 900MHz/1800MHz UMTS concessions extended until 31 December 2012, bringing to an end months of speculation. However, both cellcos are obliged to pay the state a supplementary licence fee of EUR6.4 million (USD8.3 million) for 2012 – an amount proportional to the overall fee originally paid by each operator in 1996. The telecoms watchdog has decided to auction off all available radio frequencies in the aforementioned spectrum bands in 2012, with a view to regulating the distribution of frequencies in both bands in January 2013. Further, prior to the auction ANCOM will endeavour to release spectrum in the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands, currently used by the Ministry of Defence.

According to the regulator’s latest study of the wireless market, Romania Cable Systems (RCS&RDS), the fourth-placed mobile operator in terms of subscribers, is currently operating at a competitive disadvantage, as it lacks spectrum in the 900MHz band, as held by Orange, Vodafone and Cosmote. As such, by 31 December 2012 ANCOM has confirmed that Orange and Vodafone are obliged to release a sub-band of 2×5MHz bandwidth from their respective 900MHz frequency allocations, as this will not affect the continuity of the services provided by the two operators. In December ANCOM described its plan as ‘the most appropriate remedy to create a level playing field for all the undertakings on the mobile market’. The regulator’s latest announcement follows an extensive consultation with the telecoms sector’s major players, which closed on 9 December.

ANCOM president Catalin Marinescu commented: ‘We chose [the] auction [format] because it is the most fair, accurate and transparent, [and] will allow us to maximise the efficient use of spectrum and realise the real value of this scarce resource’.