Czech 5G auction may be pushed back to mid-2020, industry minister says

18 Dec 2019

The government of Czechia may postpone the planned auction of 5G mobile frequencies from January to mid-2020 in a bid to entice greater participation in the process, minister of industry and trade Karel Havlicek is quoted as saying Tuesday (17 December). With the Czech authorities keen to attract a new national mobile operator to drive competition in a market where the high cost of services have been a perennial complaint of users, CTK news agency quoted Mr Havlicek as confirming the reason for the delay before the tender takes place for 700MHz and 3500MHz frequencies. ‘If it has been debated for several years, then it is not the most important thing whether it will take place in January or May,’ Havlicek said, adding that the prospective fourth operator should ‘crash’ the competitive landscape.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in October this year – following a public consultation on the draft terms and conditions of the auction of 5G network frequencies in the 700MHz and 3400MHz–3600MHz (3.5GHz) bands – the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) revised its framework dates for conducting the selection process, with the call for tenders postponed from autumn 2019 until the beginning of January 2020. The watchdog is seeking to allocate the frequencies in a bid to bolster competition in the Czech market where high prices have long been criticised by politicians and end users alike. Previously, in June 2019, the CTU published the draft plan of the 5G auction, the terms and conditions of which are based on previously published principles which the regulator documented over the past year in its efforts to maximise the transparency of the selection process. The regulator notes that, in order to fulfil one of the main objectives of the auction – to deepen competition on the electronic communications market – it is reserving a 2×10MHz block of spectrum at 700MHz for a new operator(s). Further, newcomer(s) will be allowed to compete for another 5MHz, but if none of the new entrants in the first auction round show interest in this reserved block, it will open it up and offer it to all auction participants.

However, one domestic operator – Nordic Telecom – argued that the amount of frequency for newcomers should be higher, and also said the amount of time required for covering the country should be shortened to ensure the auction is for serious bidders. Nordic Telecom has more than 100,000 customers, offering high speed wireless internet through its network and is aiming to use the auction to enter the mobile sector. Operators in the 5G auction will have to commit to giving coverage to cities without high speed internet, reaching 95% within three years. Further, transportation corridors and 95% of towns and cities with populations of more than 50,000 should be covered by 2025. Concurrently, in the 3.5GHz band the CTU aims to set ‘a new spectral limit for the new operator compared to the existing operators’. Additional Ts&Cs include the rule that any existing operators participating in the 700MHz band auction will assume a national roaming commitment (valid for six years), and what the watchdog terms ‘development criteria that ensure that frequencies are handled efficiently’.

Czech Republic, Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU), Nordic Telecom