Czech authorities say five companies have registered to participate in a forthcoming auction of 4G spectrum, including all three of the incumbents plus two new entrants.
Entities known as Revolution Mobile and Tasciane are to line up alongside Telefonica (Madrid, Spain), T-Mobile (Bonn, Germany) and Vodafone (Newbury, UK) in the auction of frequencies in the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.
But PPF Group (Amsterdam, Netherlands), owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, is not among the list of bidders, despite having previously flagged its interest in entering the country’s mobile market as a 4G player.
PPF Group said it had sold PPF Mobile Services, the division that would have bid for spectrum, to chief executive Tomas Budnik after expressing its dissatisfaction with auction rules.
The company was unhappy about a rule forbidding a new entrant from merging with another auction participant for at least 15 years.
However, a report from Reuters indicates that Revolution Mobile is the PPF Group spin-off now owned by Budnik.
“In addition to creating the conditions for the entry of a fourth operator, the aim of the auction is the nationwide development of the high-speed mobile internet,” said Jaromir Novak, the chairman of the Czech telecoms regulator.
“The auction of frequencies has the potential over the next 15 years to fundamentally change the mobile market by introducing sufficient infrastructure competition,” he added.
“Ultimately, the auction will also create conditions for higher-quality mobile services.”
Planning for the auction has been fraught with controversy thanks to regulatory plans to reserve spectrum in the coveted 800MHz band for a new entrant.
Both Telefonica and T-Mobile have been outspoken in their criticism of those rules, threatening to pursue legal action against Czech authorities and even to boycott the auction process.
Indeed, the Czech regulator’s announcement coincided with reports that Telefonica had filed a lawsuit protesting about the favoritism implicit in the auction rules.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile majority owner Deutsche Telekom has even been rumored to be considering an exit from the Czech market through the sale of its controlling 60.8% stake in the country’s biggest mobile player.
Authorities have set aside some 2x10MHz of the 2x30MHz available in the 800MHz band for a new entrant.
They have also reserved 2x15.8MHz of the available 1800MHz airwaves for a company that does not currently operate a mobile network in the country.
The electronic auction process is set to begin on November 11, according to the Czech regulator.