The award of 5G frequencies is proving to be a controversial issue in parts of Central and Eastern Europe.
In the Czech Republic, the country’s Telecom Office (CTU) announced the results of its frequency auction on November 13, declaring the three leading operators O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone to be the winners. Although preparations for the auction took over three years, there was general disappointment that it did not pave the way for the entrance of one or more new providers. This, in turn, would have increased competition in the market and led to a reduction in prices for consumers.
The fact that the process was running into difficulties was evident as far back as January, when the CTU’s then head Jaromir Novak resigned following disagreements with the Industry and Trade Ministry over the conditions of the 5G tender.
What is more, after the awards Karel Havlicek, the deputy PM, Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Transport, tried to justify them by arguing that a fourth operator is not present in even large European countries. It was then pointed out to him that 18 countries do indeed have at least four operators.
An equally controversial situation exists in Hungary, where in late March the regulator NMHH awarded 15-year 5G licences to Magyar Telekom, Telenor Hungary and Vodafone Hungary. This caused outrage at Digi, which is one of the leading providers of electronic communications services in the country and had been refused participation in the auction back in September 2019 on the grounds that its bid was submitted through the parent company rather than Hungarian subsidiary. Digi subsequently took legal action but was arguably caught off guard when NMHH finally held the auction in an express manner in March.
Earlier this month, the regulator announced that Hungary’s Metropolitan Court had dismissed a case brought by Digi to exclude it from the auction. However, as Digi still has the right to appeal to Hungary’s Supreme Court (Kuria), we may not have heard the last of the matter.
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