The head of Czechia’s telecoms watchdog the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) has quit over government changes to the upcoming auction of 5G-suitable spectrum, which is due to take place this year. With the CTU planning to auction off frequencies in the 700MHz and 3500MHz bands to boost competition in a market where high end user prices have long been a concern to customers and politicians alike, CTU chief executive Jaromir Novak confirmed his resignation saying: ‘I cannot sign under auction conditions that in my deep conviction will not improve the competitive environment in the Czech market, they will jeopardise the target of rapidly introducing 5G networks and they will likely lead to a number of court disputes.’ In short, Novak believes the government’s last minute changes could be a turn-off to bidders and hinder the rollout of 5G technology, arguing that the changes place ‘too much emphasis on national roaming … in the 3.5GHz band’, which could not be used across the whole country; industry minister Karel Havlicek had said the adjustments were proposed as interest from foreign bidders was ‘zero’. Novak also informed Reuters that ‘he had not been consulted properly about the changes’.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in late December 2019 the government postponed the planned auction of 5G mobile frequencies from January to mid-2020, primarily in a bid to entice greater participation in the process. With the Czech authorities keen to attract a new national mobile operator to drive competition, Mr Havlicek confirmed the delay. ‘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.