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RTR confirms that operators can apply to refarm their existing 1800 MHz frequencies for LTE. The ball is now clearly in the operators' court.

Although the 1800 MHz frequencies currently used by Austrian mobile operators are reserved for GSM, it is possible for operators to submit a request for refarming. "Every operator – including T-Mobile – is free to submit a request for refarming the 1800 MHz frequencies they currently use. The frequencies would then be 'reassigned' – subject to the approval of the Telekom-Control Commission (TKK) – and would be available for LTE. The ball is clearly in the operators' court here," says Georg Serentschy, Managing Director of RTR’s Telecommunications and Postal Services Division in response to criticisms of the regulatory authority's approac

Allocation of frequencies in the 800, 900 and 1800 MHZ bands in 2013 will be technology neutral.

As three of the four mobile operators active in the Austrian market are directly involved in the planned acquisition of Orange by H3G and of YESSS! by A1, putting the frequencies out to tender at this time could lead to at least one of the parties to these mergers being excluded from the award procedure. This would violate a key principle of any frequency allocation process, namely to safeguard long-term competition by allocating frequencies to operators who are completely independent. At the moment, the TKK still does not know whether the merger will be approved by the competition authority.

One of the characteristics of the mobile network sector is that the barriers to entry are high, or even insurmountable.  New operators can only gain entry to the market in connection with the allocation of frequency bands. If the number of providers in such a market is reduced from four to three, this can have a negative impact upon competition. The early exclusion of a potential mobile operator from the tendering procedure would run counter to the principle of ensuring sustainable competition. Moreover, the TKK wants to maintain the option of reviewing whether an approval of the mergers would require any changes to the terms of the tendering procedure and the terms of frequency usage. The TKK therefore decided not to adhere to the original timetable but to wait until 2013 before awarding frequencies in the 800, 900 and 1800 MHz bands.

The TKK is aware that postponing the assignment procedure will delay the introduction of LTE, especially in rural areas. However, the authority believes that the economic consequences of a minor delay in the frequency assignment procedure will not be as severe as the consequences that could result from a reduction in competition.

You can find out more about the frequency allocation procedure for 800/900/1800 MHz by following this link to the RTR website:

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