PROFINET, Slovakia's start-up third mobile telecom operator, failed to meet a mid-August payment deadline for its recently awarded state licences, leading to threats from the market regulating Telecoms Office (TÚ) that the firm risked losing the permits.
After being awarded licences to operate GSM and 'third-generation' UMTS mobile telecom networks in July, Profinet was obliged to pay the Sk1.5 billion ($33 million) fee in two instalments - Sk500 million due on August 14, and the remaining Sk1 billion on December 2.
"Non-payment of any instalment to the licence office will be considered a serious violation of licence conditions, which, if not adjusted according to written notification within 10 days of receipt, will result in the immediate revocation of the licence," said TÚ spokesman Roman Vavro, adding that the company had until August 30 to pay up.
Profinet, a Bratislava-based wireless operator and Internet service provider, surprised many in the spring when it submitted the only bid in Slovakia's tender for a third mobile operator.
Although claiming to be working with a foreign investor, Profinet has so far declined to name its partner, and some of the firm's creditors have grown uneasy with the firm's mounting debts.
Telecom service providers Quadia DCT and Telekom Servis have claimed that Profinet owes them Sk2.4 million and Sk1 million, respectively, while social security provider Sociálna Poisťovňa has listed the company on its website among those owing more than Sk100,000.
However, Profinet project manager Peter Ostromecký said that the firm would be able to settle the claims, and that money for the licence payment was already on the way.
"We expect to settle the first instalment within the 10-day deadline. In the event of failure and withdrawal of the licence, we will continue providing our present services as we have done until now," he said.
Slovakia's two current mobile service providers, Eurotel and Orange, both paid licence fees for GSM and UMTS service, good for 20 years, in mid-August ahead of the deadline.
According to licence conditions, UMTS providers are obliged to begin providing service within 30 months of receiving frequencies, while the third GSM operator has 18 months to ensure coverage of 20 per cent of the country's population.