Czech mobile operators fall foul of EU antitrust regulators over network sharing agreement

8 Aug 2019

The European Commission (EC) has come out against a proposed network sharing agreement between Czech mobile network operators (MNOs) O2 and T-Mobile, as well as domestic telecom infrastructure provider Ceska telekomunikacni infrastruktura (CETIN), suggesting that in its preliminary view, ‘their network sharing agreement restricts competition in breach of EU antitrust rules’.

In a statement issued Tuesday (6 August), EC Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that whilst MNOs sharing networks generally benefits consumers, both in terms of cost savings and coverage in rural areas, ‘when there are signs that co-operative agreements may be harmful to consumers, it is our role to investigate these and ensure that markets indeed remain competitive’. Referring to the network sharing agreement the cellcos struck back in 2011 – since expanded – the Commission is of the opinion it may breach the bloc’s competition rules. ‘In the present case, we have concerns that the network sharing agreement between the two major operators in Czechia reduces competition in the more densely populated areas of the country,’ Vestager said.

Meanwhile, in a press release dated 7 August, the EC clarified: ‘If confirmed, this would infringe Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits anti-competitive agreements. The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.’

Commenting on the preliminary findings, T-Mobile said: ‘T-Mobile strongly opposes the preliminary conclusions of the statement of objections in view of the vast benefits that network sharing has brought to innovation and consumers in the Czech market such as cost synergies, improving network quality and speeding up deployment of next generation networks.’ Meanwhile, rival O2 pointed out: ‘We are one of the first in Europe to share networks, and we are confident that we have complied with applicable legal and regulatory rules. Today, network sharing is commonplace in most European countries. We are therefore ready to allay the concerns of the European Commission.’