OREANDA-NEWS. The European Commission has opened an investigation into a network sharing agreement between two Czech operators of mobile telephony, O2 CZ / CETIN and T-Mobile CZ.

EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "Network sharing agreements can bring about efficiencies, such as reduced deployment costs and may allow for network expansion to previously unserved areas. But, in some circumstances, network sharing may also reduce competition on the market. The network sharing agreement between the two major operators in the Czech Republic covers most of the country. We need to ensure that it will not reduce infrastructure competition and innovation.”

O2 CZ and T-Mobile CZ are both major telecoms operators in the Czech Republic. Together, they serve approximately three quarters of the Czech retail mobile telecommunications market. O2 CZ's mobile infrastructure and wholesale business has been transferred to CETIN, a new network infrastructure company belonging to the same corporate group.

The network sharing cooperation between O2 CZ/CETIN and T-Mobile CZ started in 2011 and has been increasing in scope. Currently it covers all mobile technologies (i.e. 2G, 3G and 4G) and the entire territory of the Czech Republic with the exception of Prague and Brno (thus covering the other cities and all rural areas, amounting to around 85% of the population).

The Commission will now investigate in particular whether the cooperation between O2 CZ/CETIN and T-Mobile CZ risks slowing down quality improvements in existing infrastructure, and delaying or hindering the deployment of new technologies, such as 4G/LTE and future technologies, and new services based on them, in particular in densely populated areas. If this were the case, the cooperation would be contrary to EU Treaty rules that prohibit anticompetitive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) to the extent that it concerns behaviours that restrict competition. The Commission will also investigate the impact of potential efficiencies that could be brought about by the network sharing.

The opening of proceedings means that the Commission will examine the case as a matter of priority. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.