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Nordic Telecom calls on CTU to ringfence more 5G spectrum for new entrants

31 Jul 2019

Nordic Telecom (formerly Air Telecom), owned by private equity firm Nordic Investors, has called on the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) to offer a greater share of the 5G spectrum it expects to auction off in January 2020. The cellco is seeking to become the Republic’s fourth player in a country dominated by O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone. However, the CTU is planning to auction off frequencies in the 700MHz and 3.5GHz bands early next year, as it seeks to boost competition in a market where high prices have long been a complaint of customers and politicians; an EC study on mobile broadband prices published in February showed that the Czech Republic and Cyprus had the most expensive data prices in Europe, prompting Prime Minister Andrej Babis to put pressure on Czech operators to lower charges.

Whilst the Czech regulator has committed to reserving a block allocation of 2×10MHz in the 700MHz band for would-be new entrants, with the option to bid for an additional 5MHz if the incumbents show little interest, plus a higher limit than incumbents in the 3.5GHz band, Nordic Telecom says the plans do not go far enough. In response to the CTU public consultation that closed on 26 July, the company argues for a bigger block of frequencies and called for a shortening of the period allowed to achieve nationwide coverage to encourage what it termed ‘serious bidders’. Reuters cites Nordic Telecom’s communications director David Voska as saying: ‘Our models show that we cannot fully become a competitor to the current mobile operators because we would not have enough frequency’.

Nordic Telecom has more than 100,000 customers in the country and offers high speed internet data access through its LTE-450 network. Meanwhile, having secured two 40MHz spectrum blocks in the 3.7GHz band (3600MHz-3800MHz) in September 2017, a commercial launch of the operator’s TD-LTE-based ‘5G internet at home’ service followed in October 2018. It now aims to use the upcoming 5G auction to enter the mobile sector as a full-service provider. Operators in the auction will have to commit to giving coverage to cities without high speed internet, reaching 95% within three years. Transportation corridors and 95% of towns and cities with populations of more than 50,000 should be covered by 2025. Incumbents bidding for the 700MHz blocks on offer will also have to commit to providing national roaming for six years to new operators.

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