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Legal proceedings may delay 5G rollout in Bulgaria: regulator

Reuters logo Reuters 15/03/2021

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's telecoms operator said it would hold a meeting on Monday to seek ways to boost the commercial rollout of 5G wireless networks after telecoms operator Vivacom contested in court its decision for allocating three 5G licences.

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The Communication Regulation Commission (CRC) decided to close a 5G auction and grant each of the country's three major telecoms operators a licence in the 3.6 GHz spectrum without competition after reviewing their applications for the process.

Bulgaria's leading telecoms firm Vivacom, controlled by United Group, has started legal proceedings against the way the licences were assigned, a court filing showed. Legal proceedings could take months or even years, which would seriously delay the development of 5G networks in the Balkan country.

"We will hold a meeting and seek ways to move forward because it is in the national interest to speed up the process, if it is possible. If not, it will be left in the hands of the court," CRC head Ivan Dimitrov told Reuters.

Dimitrov said he expects the regulator to come up with a solution, pointing out that even if it issues the frequencies licences by the end of the week they cannot be enforced before a Bulgarian court rules on Vivacom's complaint.

He declined to say what the options to speed up the process could involve. Two industry sources familiar with the situation said a way out might be to hold a new auction for the licences.

Vivacom, A1, part of Austria's A1 Group controlled by Mexico's America Movil and Telenor Bulgaria, owned by Czech investment group PPF, said they will comment on the development later on Monday.

The CRC initially planned to auction three 20-year licences each with an initial price of 4 million levs ($2.44 million), but reviewed its decision on March 10 after examining the applications.

Vivacom was the only company that expressed interest in getting the licence for the 3,500-3,600 MHz band, so the regulator said that with only one bidder there should not be an auction for this licence.

It took Vivacom out of the auction for the other two permits, which left A1 as the sole bidder for the licence in the 3,600-3,700 MHz band and Telenor Bulgaria for the 3,700-3,800 MHz band.

($1 = 1.6390 leva)

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, editing by Ed Osmond)

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