July 30, 2019 / 1:34 PM / 8 months ago

Czech telecom hopeful wants more spectrum available in 5G auction

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech Republic-based Nordic Telecom, aiming to become the country’s fourth mobile operator, wants an upcoming auction of new-generation 5G frequencies to offer a greater proportion of spectrum for potential newcomers.

The Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) is planning to hold an auction of frequencies in the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands in January 2020, as it seeks to boost competition in a market where high prices have long been a gripe of customers and politicians.

The CTU has said it will reserve a block allocation of 2x10 MHz in the 700 MHz band for new operators, who could also have an option to bid for an additional 5 MHz in case incumbents show little interest. Newcomers will also have a higher limit than incumbents in the 3.5 GHz band.

But Nordic Telecom said the amount of frequency for newcomers should be higher, and also argued the amount of time required for covering the country should be shortened to ensure the auction is for what it termed serious bidders.

“Our models show that we cannot fully become a competitor to the current mobile operators because we would not have enough frequency,” Nordic Telecom’s communications director David Voska said in a statement.

A European Commission study on mobile broadband prices in February showed the Czech Republic and Cyprus had the most expensive data prices in Europe, and Prime Minister Andrej Babis has tried to pressure operators to bring down charges.

The CTU last month put its auction conditions up for public consultation. Fifteen parties had commented before a July 26 deadline, including the three incumbent operators: O2 Czech Republic, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

Nordic Telecom has more than 100,000 customers in the country of 10.7 million and offers high-speed internet through its network, aiming to use the auction to enter the mobile sector.

Operators in the auction will have to commit to giving coverage to cities without high-speed internet, reaching 95% within three years. Transportation corridors and 95% of towns and cities with populations of more than 50,000 should be covered by 2025.

Incumbents bidding for the lower frequency will also have to commit to providing national roaming for six years to new operators.

The CTU declined to comment. It has a month to deal with responses to the consultation, a spokesman said.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by David Holmes

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