Telekom-Control Commission / Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) statement on the press release issued by Hutchison 3G Austria GmbH on April 27, 2006 regarding tele.ring frequencies

Press release dated 27 April 2006

In response to the allegations issued by Hutchison 3G Austria GmbH (H3G) stating that the Telekom-Control Commission (TKK) had acted in contradiction to the decision of the European Commission (EC), RTR would like to make the following statement:

In light of the importance of frequencies, the TKK considered it useful to strengthen competition by giving the two smaller competitors the opportunity to align themselves with Mobilkom or T-Mobile in terms of allocated frequencies. Therefore, T-Mobile was obliged to offer tele.ring's entire UMTS frequency spectrum (in two packets) for sale to H3G and One within nine months.

In the TKK's opinion, the sale of these two frequency packets to only one operator (One or H3G) would not serve the purpose of ensuring fair competition. The TKK is of the opinion that H3G's competitiveness would be increased substantially even by the opportunity to acquire the usage rights to one of the two frequency packages. Giving asymmetric preference to only one of the two operators would endanger the competitive position of the other operator – thus also jeopardizing the objective of strengthening competition overall. For these reasons, the possibility selling both packets to H3G or One is considered counterproductive.

Contrary to H3G's press release, the European Commission is not of the opinion that both UMTS frequency packets should be sold to H3G. Moreover, in its decision the TKK did not address the topic of whether H3G could take part in another frequency allocation procedure if the second frequency package is not acquired by One or another mobile operator (i.e., one that has not operated in Austria up to now), meaning that the second packet would be returned to the Republic of Austria.

As for the reproach stating that the decision was made in such a way that H3G was not allowed to submit its opinions and thus had no legal protection, it is important to note that already in February 2006 the Austrian Administrative Court ruled that neither Austrian law nor EU law provides for a right to submit opinions for the competitors of companies which change their ownership structure. Accordingly, H3G is not legally a party to the procedure.

As regards H3G's claim that the TKK had acted rashly and unilaterally, it is necessary to remark that the TKK made a well-considered and duly reasoned decision. The public was also given the opportunity to submit their comments on the TKK decision in the course of a consultation procedure. The EC has been aware of the TKK's position at least since October 2005 and even affirmed that position explicitly in December 2005 and March 2006.

Moreover, the TKK would like to note that it is responsible for regulating frequency usage under the Austrian Telecommunications Act as well as the relevant EU legislation, and that it makes legally independent decisions in this capacity.