Portugal’s 5G ‘auction’ rules published today: NOS joins Altice in shooting them down

Communications regulator ANACOM has finally published the rules for the ‘auction’ to attribute licences for 5G in Portugal – and straight away NOS has ridden into battle.

Hitching itself up to the pasting delivered by Altice earlier this week (click here), the national telecoms giant claims the rules are ‘illegal and unacceptable’ and will have ‘catastrophic and irreversible consequences for Portugal’.

For all those who think 5G is a terrible idea and shouldn’t get a look in anyway, this sounds like ‘good news’.

But it isn’t. These are tactics, say those following this saga, by large operators in the field to try and grab the whole of the 5G pie.

ANACOM’s rules are designed to open the field to ‘the competition’: smaller operators that may have been around less time – and which may not (so far) have ‘invested’ so much in Portugal. The rules open the way to giving these smaller operators incentives/ benefits.

Explains Reuters “under the rules, long-time market players Altice, Vodafone and NOS will have to share their infrastructure and offer national roaming to the new entrants’ customers”.

Established operators will also have to commit to setting up 5G services covering 75% of the population by 2023 and 95% by 2025 – while new entrants will only have to cover 25% of the population by 2023 and 50% by 2025.

In NOS, and Altice’s point of view, this is all wrong. It shows very little appreciation of everything their companies have been doing for Portugal, they say.

Indeed, an official source for NOS has told Lusa that the company feels the government should have stepped in on the company’s behalf, “especially the minister of infrastructures”.

Anacom’s set of ‘rules’ need political scrutiny, said the source – pointing out that they are not found anywhere else in Europe.

Heaping criticism (once again) on the shoulders of ANACOM president João Cadete de Matos, NOS essentially threatens to take the whole matter to the courts.

“NOS’ struggle and that of other interested parties in this process, in the face of a regulator that is abusing its power and failing to act legally is discriminatory and unjust”, said the source.

The European Commission and courts ‘exist’, said the company, and it “will be to these institutions that we react with all vehemence, questioning and challenging rules we consider illegal, making the authors responsible”.

Despite the “deep feeling of injustice and revolt that dominates us, we do not hesitate and reiterate our commitment to Portugal and the Portuguese”, concluded the source, stressing NOS “will do everything in its power to see 5G becomes a reality in Portugal, actively contributing so that everyone has access to the most advanced technology and creating conditions so that Portugal can compete on equal terms with other world geographies in the digital economy”.

With everything else going on today, this spat has been somewhat ‘in the background’. But it will start getting noticed as Vodafone too has thrown weight behind NOS and Altice.

João Cadete de Matos meantime has stressed that ANACOM cannot be pushed around. He told Lusa that the regulatory body drew up the rules for the auction (to close in January 2021, with licences attributed during the first quarter) after listening ‘intensely to council leaders throughout the country’ on the ‘need to correct deficiencies in the telecoms sector’.

Indeed he said ANACOM’s only concern is that telecoms operators are profitable.

“We want investments in Portugal to be profitable, we want to attract investments – whether their national investors or foreign”, he said.

According to Reuters, Portugal is actually hoping to raise “at least 238 million euros through the auctions” in January.

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