Telecommunications: Dispute over mobile phone frequencies |

Dispute over mobile phone frequencies

1&1 insists on a “fair-opportunity and competitive award process Photo

© Federico Gambarini/dpa

The network operators have usage rights for their cell phone network, for which they previously had to pay a lot of money. That should change. A new network operator is running afoul of the authorities’ plans.

In the dispute over the future use of important mobile phone network frequencies, the company 1&1 sees itself strengthened after submitting a report. The company out Montabaur published a report commissioned by former constitutional judge Udo Di Fabio, according to which the Federal Network Agency’s previous plans were unconstitutional.

The Bonn authority wants to extend usage rights that expire at the end of 2025 by five years and forgo an auction worth billions. The newcomer 1&1, which bought its own rights for the first time in 2019 and now wants to buy more, would be left out. This would be a major setback for the emerging competitor to the established network operators.

1&1 insists on a “fair-opportunity and competitive award procedure”. According to Di Fabio’s assessment, the auction conducted in 2019 results in additional regulatory responsibility. “An extension of the frequency usage rights of the established network operators without taking 1&1 into account as a new entrant would violate the principles of the protection of legitimate expectations and the principle of equality,” explained the lawyer. The network agency has not finally decided how it wants to proceed. That should happen in the spring.

“Unsuitable attempt to influence an independent authority”

The report caused the competitor Telefónica Deutschland (O2) to shake their heads. “In our view, this is an unsuitable attempt to influence an independent authority,” said company boss Markus Haas. “That’s a lot of storm in a teacup.” The manager pointed out that the network agency had “complete discretion” and that frequency extensions would be legal.

Haas also emphasized that the overall well-being must be put in the foreground. “If one of the three network operators were to give up spectrum, millions of consumers would be at risk of losses in network supply and quality.” With this, Haas was addressing the aspect, which was also confirmed by the network agency, that too little frequency range would be freed up for it to be easily divided among four network operators – instead of, as was previously the case, among Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and O2.

O2 recently published a commissioned report from another professor, according to which there is no alternative to an extension. According to 1&1, however, there is certainly enough spectrum if other frequency bands are taken into account. However, the three top dogs are not ready for this.


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