Czech regulator to launch 4G licence sale in November

PRAGUE, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Czech telecommunications regulator CTU will begin an auction of frequencies to build fourth-generation mobile networks by mid-November after a previous attempted sale was aborted in March, CTU said on Thursday.

The auction will allow a new operator to reserve spectrum as the government seeks to boost competition, despite protests by country’s three existing mobile service providers.

Bidders will be able to submit applications to take part in the tender until Sept. 30, the regulator said.

European countries are rushing to roll out superfast mobile networks based on LTE or fourth-generation technology that will allow faster mobile broadband access.

The Czech auction in March was cancelled after receiving bids that it said were so high that they risked inflating the price of the services and delaying launch.

The CTU came back with new conditions in April, immediately drawing protests from the country’s three operators - Telefonica Czech Republic, T-Mobile and Vodafone .

They object to another rival entering the fray with a competitive advantage if it is guaranteed space in the coveted 800 MHz band and ends up paying less for its license.

PPF Mobile Services, a unit of the PPF investment group owned by Petr Kellner, the richest man in the Czech Republic, took part in the aborted sale and is expected by analysts to enter the new auction.

T-Mobile again protested against the step to reserve space for a new entrant to the central European country of 10.5 million.

“As we have repeatedly said, we consider this step an unjustified disadvantage for existing operators,” spokeswoman Martina Kemrova said. “We will decide whether we will take part in the auction after a detailed examination of the materials. We are considering possible legal steps.”

PPF’s spokesman was not available to comment. Telefonica CR declined immediate comment on the newly released final tender conditions. A Vodafone spokeswoman did not say whether the company would take part in the auction.

Documents obtained by Reuters, which were presented to the government on Wednesday, showed T-Mobile had complained to the European Commission, but CTU said that complaint was dismissed by the EU executive.

With the Czech market long criticised by its customers for having high prices and fees, the three existing players have begun a price war on mobile voice and data services that some analysts said would make it difficult for a newcomer to establish a strong presence.

Under the outlined conditions, the minimum value of bids for all the frequencies on offer is 8.72 billion crowns ($448.39 million). In the previous auction, bids reached over 20 billion crowns. ($1 = 19.4475 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jan Korselt and Jason Hovet; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)