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NEW FREQUENCIES WON’T MEAN NEW COMPETITION FOR VOICE CALLS

Frequencies for sale; lukewarm welcome

A NEW SET of mobile frequencies in Slovakia are being put up for sale, which could allow a fourth mobile operator to enter the Slovak telecommunication market, or one of the existing operators to broaden their reach. The catch is that the frequency package is intended for high-speed mobile internet, rather than voice, traffic. And, so far at least, none of the existing operators are rushing to bid.

A NEW SET of mobile frequencies in Slovakia are being put up for sale, which could allow a fourth mobile operator to enter the Slovak telecommunication market, or one of the existing operators to broaden their reach. The catch is that the frequency package is intended for high-speed mobile internet, rather than voice, traffic. And, so far at least, none of the existing operators are rushing to bid.

The telecom market regulator, the Slovak Telecommunications Office, launched the tender for Slovakia’s fourth mobile communications operator on March 31, seeking bidders for a 20-year licence to use the 872-876 MHz and 917-921 MHz frequency band nationwide.

According to the call for bids, the frequency package is for the operation of a national mobile communication network with broadband digital technology providing publicly accessible electronic communication services.

The Telecommunications Office set the price offered as the sole evaluation criterion and expects to receive bids exceeding Sk30 million, it said in an official statement. Applications and preliminary bids should arrive at the office by April 29.

Slovakia already has three mobile operators; none of them has yet said that they will be rushing to bid for the frequencies.

René Parák, spokesman for Telefónica O2, told The Slovak Spectator that his company has been carefully monitoring the situation as well as the information released by the Telecommunications Office.

Mobile operator Orange will consider whether to bid for the frequencies after it has studied in detail the conditions set by the Telecommunications Office, Peter Tóth, the company’s Corporate Affairs Manager, told The Slovak Spectator.

T-Mobile’s reaction was very similar. Andrej Gargulák told the SITA newswire that his company has been analysing the terms of the tender and will decide whether to bid once it has done so.

Alternative fixed-line operator Slovanet sounded slightly more enthusiastic, suggesting that it is interested in widening its services and is evaluating the tender call and its potential.

Ivica Hricová of Slovanet told The Slovak Spectator that her company has been seeking ways to provide internet services even in smaller towns.

“Currently we are solving this issue through the construction and acquisition of optical networks in towns all around Slovakia; where [such] possibilities are limited, and in association with the tender, we will be considering the offer to provide services in the 870 MHz frequency band,” Hricová said.

Fixed-line operator Slovak Telekom and alternative operators Swan and GTS Nextra have already said that they will not bid for the frequencies.

“We do not want to enter the tender, since the winner will not be able to use GSM technology,” Swan marketing manager Martin Holák told SITA.

According to the Slovak Telecommunications Office, the 872-876 MHz/917-921 MHz band is in terms of frequencies close to the GSM band that traditional mobile operators have been using. However, the winner will be using a technology different from GSM and the end devices will be different from standard mobile phones, the office said.

Last year the Telecommunications Office received a request for the allocation of frequencies in the 870 MHz band and the tender was prepared based on this request, Roman Vavro, a spokesman for the Telecommunications Office, said in an official release.

Chairman of the Telecommunications Office Branislav Máčaj told media in January that an investor has shown interest in providing services in the 870 MHz frequency band.

Though he did not specify who the investor was, he mentioned that it is a financial investor active in the telecommunications sector in the Czech Republic.

However, earlier this year the Pravda daily speculated that the tender was in fact initiated by Penta, which operates the telecommunication operator U:fon through the company MobilKom in the Czech Republic.

Penta spokesman Martin Danko told SITA that the company will not take part in the tender.

As of December 31, the three Slovak mobile operators, Orange Slovensko, T-Mobile Slovensko and Telefónica O2 Slovakia, registered 6.126 million clients altogether. This was an increase of approximately 917,000 customers year-on-year, according to SITA.

The penetration of mobile phone services in Slovakia has increased by almost 17 percentage point year-on-year to 113.44 percent over last year, SITA wrote.

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