The Czech Republic’s telecoms regulator, the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU), has launched a tender to award radio frequencies in the 700MHz and 3400MHz–3600MHz bands, suitable for fifth-generation wireless services. In a press release dated 7 August, the CTU confirmed its intention to boost competition in a market that has long faced vocal criticism from politicians and consumers for the high cost of mobile services. Following its public consultation on its proposals, the regulator has highlighted a number of key aims of the tender. Specifically, it has:
a) reserved a comprehensive section of 2×10MHz in the 700MHz band for new applicants for entry into the mobile market
b) set spectral limits for both offered frequency bands, taking into account the range of radio frequencies already held by potential participants
c) set the condition for the provision of national roaming services to existing mobile operators for the benefit of new operators, provided that they meet the set conditions for the development of their own 5G networks
d) defined the obligation to lease frequencies in favour of support for so-called ‘Industry 4.0.’
e) defined development criteria for the rapid development of new networks, including deadlines for the coverage of motorway and railway corridors
f) set the conditions for the provision of Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) communication services on the basis of a future contract of the Ministry of the Interior.
Interested bidders have until 30 September 2020 to submit applications to take part in the auction, the CTU said, however the proposals have been met with scepticism and criticism from the country’s mobile network operators (MNOs) O2 Czech Republic, T-Mobile CR and Vodafone CR. In a statement issued after the watchdog’s update, Vodafone criticised the CTU saying: ‘Given the mistakes and problems in the conditions, it can be expected that the auction will result in clashes at courts and also the European Commission’. Rival T-Mobile also raised concerns over the plan, which is seen as not well prepared, with spokesman Jiri Janecek quoted by Reuters as saying: ‘We have to study the conditions and ponder our next steps, including possible charges’. Only last month, O2 Czech Republic had lodged a complaint with the European Commission over some of the terms and conditions of the auction.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in January 2020 CTU chief executive Jaromir Novak quit over government modifications to the upcoming auction of 5G-suitable spectrum, believing the last minute changes could be a turn-off to bidders and hinder the rollout of 5G technology. 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.’