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Poland sees room for 4th mobile operator, will announce tender for new frequencies

Polish telecom regulator URTiP will announce a tender for additional third-generation UMTS and GSM 1800 frequencies still this year, thereby opening up space for the entrance of a fourth mobile operator, URTiP head Witold Grabos told reporters on Friday, March 5.

"I do not expect there to be only one interested party in acquiring the frequencies, and thus a tender is inevitable," Grabos said. "I don't know if we will be able to select another operator this year, but we will certainly announce the tender by year-end."

A single operator interested in the UMTS and GSM 1800 frequencies was said to be the best current solution.

The Polish military has freed some 100 channels in the GSM 1800 range, versus the 150 channels currently divided among the three active operators: Centertel with 50 channels, and Polkomtel and PTC each with 48 channels each. This in theory leaves room for even two more operators, though their operations would have to be limited to large cities due to technology constraints. This also applies to the future UMTS infrastructure.

The regulator announced it would take opinions and offers from industry representatives over the next 90 days.

In another competition-boosting drive, the URTiP has handed out 19 mobile virtual network operating (MVNO) licenses. None of the MVNOs has yet announced the signing of appropriate deals with any of the active mobile operators, though recent press reports suggest that may soon change. The three operators themselves have expressed opposition to the idea of MVNOs, fearing the latter might skim off top clients and leave the incumbents with huge network investment costs and the lowest-yielding customers.

The three current players are PTC, the largest by client count, the number-two Centertel and the third placed Polkomtel, the most profitable. PTC is majority owned by a joint venture of Vivendi and Warsaw's Elektrim. Deutsche Telecom has a 49% minority stake. Centertel is a unit of Poland's dominant telecom operator TPSA. Polkomtel is held by Britain's Vodafone, Denmark's TDC, and three Polish industrial giants.

(Interfax 8.iii.04)

 
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