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Mobile operators appeal license extension fees

SLOVAKIA’S two mobile operators whose operating licenses need to be renewed were initially silent after the country’s Telecommunication Office (TÚ) disclosed the renewal fees it expected for 10-year extensions of their licenses. But on the very last day to challenge the TÚ’s decision, August 24, both Orange Slovensko and Slovak Telekom, which provides mobile service under the T-Mobile brand, officially appealed the authority’s decision ordering Orange Slovensko to pay €41 million and Slovak Telekom to pay €48 million. By filing the appeal, the mobile operators can continue providing mobile services without paying the one-off renewal fees until a final decision is reached, the SITA newswire reported. The Telecommunication Office now has 30 days to consider the appeals and review its decision.

SLOVAKIA’S two mobile operators whose operating licenses need to be renewed were initially silent after the country’s Telecommunication Office (TÚ) disclosed the renewal fees it expected for 10-year extensions of their licenses. But on the very last day to challenge the TÚ’s decision, August 24, both Orange Slovensko and Slovak Telekom, which provides mobile service under the T-Mobile brand, officially appealed the authority’s decision ordering Orange Slovensko to pay €41 million and Slovak Telekom to pay €48 million. By filing the appeal, the mobile operators can continue providing mobile services without paying the one-off renewal fees until a final decision is reached, the SITA newswire reported. The Telecommunication Office now has 30 days to consider the appeals and review its decision.

“Yes, we have appealed the amount of the fee,” said Andrej Gargulák, the Slovak Telecom spokesperson, as cited by the TASR newswire, but his company did not comment further on its action.

Orange Slovensko stated that it did not agree with the amount of the renewal fee as well as the decision-making process used by the TÚ.

“The board of directors of Orange Slovensko decided that the firm would appeal the decision of the Telecommunications Office on the extension of its operator license,” said Peter Toth, the Orange Slovensko spokesperson, as quoted by SITA. SITA wrote that Orange, the largest mobile operator in Slovakia, also complained of a non-transparent procedure, a discriminatory attitude and factual flaws in the methodology and the calculation of the fee on the part of the Telecommunication Office.

SITA also wrote that the telecom authority believes the mobile operators are trying to get the general public on their side by filing the appeals. “Statements for media are part of this process,” said the spokesman for the TÚ, Roman Vavro, as quoted by SITA. “By their statements the operators are trying to win the opinion of the general public.”

The TÚ also responded to the statements made by Orange Slovensko about the way in which the fees were calculated and the data used.

“We respect the right of everybody to their opinion, even though it was created without necessary knowledge of the matter,” Vavro stated. “A team of specialists in the fields of administration of the frequency spectrum, economic regulation and the law was working on the decision. When calculating the exact amount of the one-off payment for extension of the licenses we used data from the operators, who are responsible for the correctness of the submitted data.”

The TÚ said it used ARPU (average revenue per user) indicators as well as the frequency bandwidth to calculate the fees.

The former head of the Telecommunication Office, Branislav Máčaj, said that calculating the licence renewal fees by using ARPU effectively penalises the more successful operator.

“At question are identical licences and the operator who is able to earn more per user will now pay more,” Máčaj said, as quoted by the Sme daily.

The Sme daily wrote that Orange Slovensko had said before the TÚ announcement of the extension fees that if its one-off charge was higher than €5 million it would consider filing arbitration against Slovakia. Telefónica Slovakia, the third mobile operator in Slovakia, paid €5 million for its 20-year GSM and 3G licences in 2006.

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