Czech online business daily iHNED.cz reports that the country’s national telecoms regulator the Czech Telecommunications Office (CTU) may be distancing itself from an earlier plan to auction off frequencies in the 800MHz band. The frequencies up on offer were considered the best option to support the build-out of fourth-generation (4G) mobile networks in the country, and had also been heralded as the best way to introduce a fourth player to the market. However, the CTU is instead apparently favouring a new extended national roaming plan for the 800MHz band, better utilising services on the networks of the three existing incumbents – Telefonica O2 CR, Vodafone and T-Mobile.
The watchdog had intended to auction off spectrum in three frequency bands – 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz – with the lowest band considered key to developing widespread high speed broadband mobile internet coverage across the country. The reserve price for this band has been set at CZK1.1 billion (USD54.89 million) for the six blocks on offer but, partly in response to comments from industry players, it is understood the CTU believes that an extension in national roaming conditions would be the best way for a newcomer to get off the ground without prohibitive start-up costs. The regulator also now intends to cut the cost of new frequencies in the 1800MHz band by 20% to attract a newcomer, with the PPF Group (controlled by billionaire Petr Kell) considered the only viable contender to establish a venture to challenge the big three incumbents at this time. However, analysts remain to be convinced that that Czech mobile market is big enough and lucrative enough to support a new entrant.
Last month, PPF Group, the richest private-equity firm in central Europe, confirmed its interest in bidding for a 4G mobile licence in the Republic, subject to the final conditions of the tender. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database reports that the CTU will review comments and submissions from interested companies until 30 June, following which it will start discussions with them in July with a view to finalising the terms and conditions for the auction by the end of the year. Telefonica O2 CR, T-Mobile and are among the 29 companies or legal entities to have expressed interest in participating in the auction for new mobile frequencies.