Czech Republic regulator the Czech Telecommunication Office (Cesky telekomunikacni urad, CTU) want to kick off its auction of 5G-suitable frequencies in early November 2019 and is seeking to attract bids from a new fourth mobile network operator (MNO) to tackle the long-standing problem of high mobile rates in the country. A report from Reuters claims that the CTU is in the ‘later stages of planning’ and having submitted the main terms and conditions of the tender process to the government, hopes that discussions will now take place ahead of a public consultation – likely to start in April. The regulator plans to auction off blocks of spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.4GHz bands and in an attempt to smooth the way for a new entrant it is reserving one block in the 700MHz band for newcomers, preventing existing MNOs from driving up prices. It will also put in place stipulations to protect the newcomer in the set-up phase, including the requirement that MNOs allow it access to their networks while building its own, provided the entrant initially covers 10% of the population itself.
CTU Chairman Jaromir Novak is quoted as saying that the 5G frequency auction would be considered a success if it attracted a fourth operator to take on the might of the three incumbents O2 Czech Republic, T-Mobile CR and Vodafone CR. ‘The main goal is promoting competition on the Czech market,’ he confirmed in an interview at a time when an EC study into mobile broadband prices across the continent concluded that the Czech Republic and Cyprus had the most expensive data prices in Europe – a perennial complaint of customers in the Republic. Responding to questions on whether the bid to attract a newcomer would be successful, Novak conceded that while previous attempts had failed, this time was different. ‘The time is changing and I am not sure Czech operators realise it,’ he is quoted as saying. ‘When you compare prices across Europe, you really see people are starving for data in the Czech Republic.’ Going forward, the CTU official confirmed that the agency is confident about its proposals, adding: ‘We would like to call the tender in the summer and start the bidding procedures in the beginning of November. It is an optimistic scenario.’