Bosnia's Telekom Srpske plans Austrian MVNO

Telekom Srpske, which operates mobile services under the m:tel brand in the Banja Luka area of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is now planning to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in Austria.

In a filing with the Banja Luka Stock Exchange, the operator said it had registered m:tel Austria with the Viennese authorities, with a start-up capital of €35,000 ($47,730).

The timing of the launch has not been revealed. Telekom Srpske, which is 65 per cent owned by Telekom Srbija, said it would offer voice, texts, data, live TV, and web-based music streaming services, and will target its services at people from the former Yugoslavia who live and work in Austria.

It's also not clear which network will host the MVNO, but 3 Austria is a likely contender: Hutchison Whampoa's H3G was forced to comply with a number of obligations as part of its merger with Orange Austria, one being to offer cheap wholesale access to MVNOs. At the time, H3G committed to make up to 30 per cent of its capacity available to a maximum of 16 MVNOs.

As things stand, operators Mass Response and Liberty Global's UPC have said they plan to take advantage of this commitment, but no MVNO has as yet rolled out services.

Austria's telecoms regulator recently told Reuters that Austria may see new mobile operators entering the market in the fourth quarter of this year.

"We see very welcome signs that a few market entries are in the offing from new operators," Johannes Gungl said.

Austria now has three mobile operators after 3 Austria merged with Orange Austria, and prices have started to rise since the merger was completed. However, Austria had been one of the most fiercely competitive markets in the European Union. Both Telekom Austria and T-Mobile Austria have previously commented that prices before the merger had dropped to what they saw as unsustainable levels.

What impact new MVNOs will have on the market remains to be seen, but it's likely that such new companies will focus on particular target markets rather than competing purely on price with the three incumbent operators.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Banja Luka Stock Exchange filing

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