Austrian competition regulator BWB has announced plans to investigate the developments in mobile prices since the market was reduced to three operators by 3 Austria’s acquisition of Orange Austria at the beginning of 2013. The BWB said it will conduct a thorough review of the “highly concentrated” market in order to ensure consumers are not disadvantaged by any anti-competitive behavior, that no commercial practices are distorting or restricting the market and that fair and transparent competition is ensured. The BWB, which said it is working with other governmental bodies on the investigation, has begun by requesting further information from the mobile operators. T-Mobile Austria stated that it had received such a request and was cooperating with it.
When 3 Austria (owned by Hutchison Whampoa) bought Orange’s Austrian unit for €1.3 billion (US $1.7 billion), the number of MNOs in the country went from four to three. To compensate for that, the government required 3 Austria to offer up to 16 prospective MVNOs access to its network. However, there were no takers. Now, the operator says it is in talks to launch one or two MVNOS before the end of 2014. Its remaining MNO competitors, T-Mobile Austria and Telekom Austria, host more than a dozen MVNOs between them.
T-Mobile, which received a request for information, said in a statement that its pricing was based entirely on its own commercial considerations and costs, which it said have been increased by the high prices in the country’s recent spectrum auction, as well as by higher energy prices and the need to invest in its network to meet growing demand for data. It also said that competition is poised to increase rather than decrease due to the expected entry of new MVNOs in the coming months.
“The situation in the Austrian market is murky at present and underscores how difficult it can be to assess the consequences of telecom mergers. Nevertheless, it appears that if the consolidation of 3 and Orange has not reduced competition, it certainly has done little or nothing so far to stimulate it.”
The Tarifica Alert
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