The European Commission (EC) has raised concerns over the Polish government’s allocation of 800MHz LTE spectrum last year. The main issue relates to the reservation of a block of frequencies for the fixed-wireless provider and MVNO Sferia, which belongs to the same group of companies as cellular operators Polkomtel and Aero2, and pay-TV firm Cyfrowy Polsat. The EC is now asking Warsaw for clarification of its auction process. Reuters cites an EC spokeswoman as saying: ‘The Commission has concerns that the assignment of the 800MHz band to mobile operator Sferia did not respect EU rules on spectrum management.’ She added: ‘The Commission also has concerns that Poland’s law on spectrum infringes EU telecoms law.’ Poland has been given two months to reply to the formal notice.
Poland’s Ministry of Digital Affairs (Ministerstwo Cyfryzacji, MC) has responded to the notice, saying it will cooperate with the EC ‘to dispel its doubts’. It adds that the EC did not raise any challenge to the award of frequencies to Sferia at the time, and had instead been urging EU governments to push ahead with the award of so-called ‘digital dividend’ spectrum in the 800MHz band freed up by the switch from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.
Sferia previously held 800MHz frequencies which it said in 2011 that it planned to use to deploy LTE technology, but the government blocked the telco from using the spectrum as it wanted to create a contiguous band in the 800MHz range which could be offered at auction. Sferia started legal action, but agreed to drop its case in 2013 in return for a licence awarding it one-sixth of the available 800MHz frequencies. The remaining five blocks were sold at auction in 2015, with Orange Polska, T-Mobile Poland and P4/Play emerging with spectrum. However, T-Mobile launched a complaint with the EC over the prior reservation of spectrum for Sferia. Sferia does not utilise the spectrum block for its own retail services, instead leasing the frequencies to sister companies Aero2 and Polkomtel.