Czech operators file complaints against 5G auction

11 September 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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The Czech Republic’s 5G auction faced fresh hurdles this week as more legal complaints were filed against the country’s regulator, CTU.

The auction was originally scheduled to take place in January, but delays were announced in December 2019 that pushed the date back to “mid-2020”. In January the head of the CTU resigned over the auction, warning it was likely to result in court disputes.

In July, O2 Czech Republic filed a complaint to the European Commission over some of the auction conditions. Then on 7 August the country launched a tender for frequencies for next-generation 5G networks, with a deadline of 30 September.

Following this, Vodafone released a statement that said: “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”. T-Mobile also said it would consider “possible charges”.

Yesterday, Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile and Vodafone lodged formal legal complaints at a Prague court to challenge the auction.

Their dispute concerns national roaming proposals and frequency allocations. Full details are still emerging; however, it is understood that incumbents bidding for the lower frequency will have to commit to providing national roaming for six years to new operators.

CTU earlier stated the auction also aims to attract a fourth player to the national market.

The Czech auction

The planned auction is for frequencies in the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands. Conditions will include a commitment for operators to cover cities without high-speed internet, reaching 95% coverage within three years. Additionally, transportation corridors and 95% of towns and cities with populations of more than 50,000 should be covered by 2025.

The aim of the auction is to foster competition, ensure efficient use of radio frequencies, and promote technological innovation. At the same time, CTU said it would also help to enable future Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) communication.

Its official communication published last month detailed:

  1. a) a compact range of 2x10 MHz in 700 MHz band is reserved for new entrants to the mobile market,
  2. b) spectral limits are set for both the auctioned bands, in which the radio frequencies allocations so far gained by the auction participants are considered,
  3. c) an obligation is set for the incumbent operators to provide national roaming services to the benefit of new entrants, if they fulfil the required condition of their own network deployment,
  4. d) a commitment to lease frequencies is defined to support the development of Industry 4.0,
  5. e) development criteria are defined to support fast deployment of new networks, including coverage of highway and railway corridors,
  6. f) conditions for provision of PPDR communication services are set for a future contract with the Ministry of the Interior.

 Interested bidders have until 30 September to apply. CTU said the following day the envelopes will be opened and the applicants informed whether or not they have fulfilled the conditions of participation. Successful applicants will be invited to the auction phase.

Under the original schedule, the operators would have had until 2024 to roll out new 5G networks however the near year-long delay to the auction process is likely to now push this back.