Vodafone CR latest to challenge CTU’s 4G auction plan

28 Oct 2013

Vodafone’s Czech operating subsidiary last Friday filed a legal challenge to stop the national regulator, the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU’s), auction of spectrum suitable for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) services. The filing, with the Czech antimonopoly office (UOHS) and the European Commission (EC), comes in the wake of a similar move earlier this month by rival Telefonica O2 CR, which claims that the new revised rules constitute unnecessary state interference in the way they favour a possible new market entrant. Specifically, Telefonica O2 CR is baulking at the CTU’s decision to ring-fence a block of spectrum in the 800MHz band for a newcomer, adding that it is dismayed that its previous objections to the new terms and conditions were seemingly ‘dismissed’ out of hand by the watchdog. A spokeswoman for Vodafone CR confirmed the latest challenge which is another setback to the CTU’s auction plans. Vodafone is calling on the government to put in place a ‘new fair and transparent’ auction.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, on 14 October the CTU approved all five bidders’ applications to take part in the upcoming auction of next generation mobile frequency licences. The watchdog, which is looking to relaunch the sale of 4G-suitable spectrum on 11 November, approved the bids of the three incumbents – Telefonica O2 CR, T-Mobile Czech Republic and Vodafone Czech Republic – as well as two from would-be new entrants, Revolution Mobile AS, a former unit of Czech financial group PPF; and unknown quantity, Czech-owned Sazka Telecommunications (formerly known as Tasciane AS).

The revised auction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) licences is expected to raise up to CZK8.72 billion (USD457 million) for the government, which is striving to boost competition and services in the local market. The first attempt to allocate 4G licences was called off in March this year after the reserve price climbed so high it was feared that it would risk inflating the price of the services and delaying launch. The terms and conditions of the revamped tender also mandates reserving a spectrum block in the 800MHz and 1800MHz bands for a new entrant to help boost competitiveness in the market.