UPDATE 1-Austrian watchdog sees possible new operators in Q4

Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:49am EDT

* New mobile operators may enter market in Q4

* Regulator watching market closely after consolidation

* Hutchison forced to offer cheap MVNO access (Adds background)

VIENNA, June 13 (Reuters) - Austria may see new mobile telecoms operators entering the market in the fourth quarter of this year, the country's telecoms watchdog told journalists on Friday.

"We see very welcome signs that a few market entries are in the offing from new operators," Johannes Gungl said.

The regulator is watching the market for signs that consumers could be hurt by reduced competition after Hutchison Whampoa bought Orange Austria at the start of 2013, reducing the number of mobile carriers to three from four.

As a condition of the takeover, Hutchison had to agree to offer access to its network at almost cost price to so-called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) - no-frills service providers who could boost competition again.

"We will already see in the fourth quarter who will come here and with what price policies operators will go into the market," Gungl said.

Austrian mobile carriers have been raising their tariffs, which are among the cheapest in Europe, in the past months, led by former state monopoly Telekom Austria.

Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile Austria and Hutchison have also raised prices for some of their cheaper packages.

(Reporting by Angelika Gruber; Writing by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Michael Shields)