The state postal service Slovenská Pošta (SP) and Swan company introduced the newest mobile operator called Štvorka or 4ka (number four in English) on October 4. It currently offers only prepaid services that are available at each of the 1,500 post offices across the country.
Though the new provider has low prices and wide availability going for it, analysts say it may have problems with its small coverage area.
“I am convinced this will contribute to modernisation and better quality of Slovenská Pošta’s comprehensive services,” SP head Tomáš Drucker said, as quoted in a press release.
In promoting the new product, Swan and SP want to first focus on Slovenská Pošta’s customers, particularly young people and people who prefer cheaper telephone calls. They also plan to connect the mobile services with SP’s other products to create packages different from those offered by their competitors, Drucker added.
“The strong point of 4ka is that it is a purely Slovak product, something that counts in Slovakia,” Ondrej Macko, editor-in-chief of the TouchIT.sk website, told The Slovak Spectator.
The provider can also benefit from its SIM cards being sold directly at every post office, he added.
The new operator charges €0.04 per minute of phoning or for each text message, which is about half the price offered by competitors. The price for mobile internet is also €0.04 per 1 MB, the Sme daily wrote. People are able to charge their credit at all post offices and at 570 selected post offices it will be possible to buy recharge coupons for 4, 8, 12 or 16 euros.
The presence of the new provider will impact the market mostly due to its prices, said Macko.
National roaming provider unclear
The provider may, however, have a problem with its lack of coverage as it currently covers only 40 percent of the population (about 60 towns), Macko said.
This means that at places where it does not have its own network it will have to rely on national roaming, using the networks of the other mobile operators. This model has already been used in Slovakia in 2006 when O2 entered the market and used the national network of Slovak Telekom.
Swan, however, has faced several problems in the past when discussing national roaming with other providers. In February a Bratislava court issued, at the request of Orange Slovensko, the biggest mobile operator in Slovakia, a preliminary injunction stating that Orange does not need to provide national roaming to Swan. As a response, Swan filed a counter complaint.
The preliminary injunction does not pertain to the other two mobile operators, Slovak Telekom and O2.
The Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (RÚ) confirmed in March that Swan has already covered more than 20 percent of Slovakia’s population via its granted frequencies and thus is entitled to national roaming.
Though Swan confirmed to Sme that it received national roaming on September 7, it failed to state who will provide it. The daily speculated it may be Slovak Telekom.
Swan wants to increase its own coverage to 50 percent by the end of this year,the Pravda daily wrote.
Meanwhile the Bratislava regional prosecutor’s office turned to the Supreme Court, posing several questions about the licence Swan received from the RÚ. One of them pertains to the deadline for launching the provision of 4G services, which every operator must do in six months.
At the time, it was not clear whether it was enough to launch the service or also to secure people to use it. Swan met only the first condition. Subsequently, Orange turned to the RÚ, asking it to explain the law. The prosecutor’s office stepped in claiming it is necessary also to launch services for people, the Hospodárske Noviny daily wrote.
Swan responded that it has met all conditions and the RÚ agreed. The RÚ reminded, however, of the official confirmation of Swan starting use of the services within six months after receiving the permission issued in November 2014. The RÚ also sent an explanation of its approach to checking this duty directly to Orange Slovensko, according to a press release.
If the Supreme Court accepts the motion of the prosecutor’s office and orders RÚ to re-examine whether Swan met the conditions, it would be difficult for the regulator, Andrej Leontiev, partner at the TaylorWessing e/n/w/c law firm, told Hospodárske Noviny.
“If it [RÚ] decides on removing the licence, the provider may ask the country for compensation,” Leontiev said.
The RÚ however does not see any reason to start the proceeding on removing the frequencies.
“The fact that the prosecutor’s office has a different view does not mean that its legal opinion is right,” the RÚ said, adding it will wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling.