3 Austria drops appeal over spectrum auction

Hutchison Whampoa's Austrian unit H3G, or 3 Austria, decided not to appeal against the results of last year's spectrum auction even though it still believes the auction was "illegal in form and content."

In an emailed statement, 3 Austria CEO Jan Trionow said the decision to withdraw the appeal was based on the fact that "circumstances have changed in the meantime".

Such changes are understood to include the Austrian government's plan to invest €1 billion ($1.3 billion) of the auction proceeds in broadband infrastructure.

However, Austrian newspaper Krone noted that there are two key hurdles to the broadband investment plan: the auction is not yet legally in force because of the appeals by operators; and the European Commission wants to ensure that the investment programme does not breach European Union rules on state aid.

Krone commented that Doris Bures, Austria's Minister of Transport, Innovation and Technology, expects a ruling in the autumn, and also hopes to receive EU clearance this year so that the public tender process can start in 2015. The first €200 million is then expected to be invested in 2016.

T-Mobile Austria told Reuters that its appeal still stood. In comments emailed to FierceWireless:Europe, a spokesman for T-Mobile Austria said the company is awaiting the decision of the court on the merits of its case.

"If, however, the court decides that we were right to complain it will eventually affect all three providers, since the decision would result in the cancellation of the frequency decree," the spokesman added.

Austria's spectrum auction raised a total of €2 billion and came under fierce criticism from all three mobile network operators because of the high price they had to pay for new spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands.

At the time, Telekom Austria CEO Hannes Ametsreiter said the operator was pleased with the spectrum package it had been able to acquire--but said the high price it had to pay was "a bitter pill to swallow." 3 Austria's Trionow claimed that the outcome of the auction was a disaster for the industry as a whole.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Krone article (in German)

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