SARAJEVO, July 8 (Reuters) - Bosnian telecoms firm m:tel plans to expand into Austria with a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), it said on Tuesday, in a move that may help ease antitrust concerns after a merger cut the number of operators to three from four.
Increased competition in the Austrian market is seen as having wider importance for the European telecoms industry and may signal whether further consolidation will be allowed by regulators elsewhere.
Hutchison Whampoa’s Drei 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 MVNOs - no-frills service providers - who could boost competition again.
Until now no new MVNO services have launched on Hutchison’s network.
M:tel, majority-owned by Serbia’s Telekom Srbija, will target the former Yugoslav diaspora, Austria’s second-biggest immigrant group.
M:tel said it would provide fixed-line service via a non-geographic code, as well as voice, text, short message and data service and multi-media content from ex-Yugoslavia, such as live TV and web-based streaming.
A spokeswoman for the company declined to say whose network m:tel would use in Austria.
Austria’s three mobile network operators - Telekom Austria , Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile and Drei - declined immediate comment.
Austria’s telecoms regulator said in June the country may see new mobile telecoms operators entering the market in the fourth quarter of 2014.
M:tel shares on the Banja Luka Stock Exchange (BLSE) traded flat at 1.55 Bosnian marka ($1.07) on Tuesday. It’s first-quarter profit fell 18 percent to 20.55 million marka due to the poor payment of bills in the fixed-line telephony sector. ($1 = 0.7331 Euros) ($1 = 1.438 Bosnian marka) (Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in Vienna; Editing by Louise Heavens)