Spain’s communications and competition regulator CNMC has published a report criticising the proposal of the Ministry of Economy and Digital Transformation to modify the country’s National Frequency Allocation Table (CNAF) to extend the maximum limits of spectrum per operator following the expected merger of Orange Spain and Masmovil. The combination of Spain’s second and fourth largest telecom operators would leave the available spectrum in the hands of just three MNOs, who should be required to provide 5G access to MVNOs to offset any anti-competitive impact, said the regulator.
The draft CNAF order proposes increasing the current spectrum limits per operator both in the medium bands (1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz and 2.6 GHz) and in the 3,400-3,800 MHz band as well as reserving 450 MHz in the 26 GHz band for private 5G networks. According to the CNMC, “it is especially relevant that, with the new limits proposed, the volume of spectrum that Orange-Masmovil should free up could be acquired by the other two MNOs with the largest market share (Telefonica and Vodafone)… which would have a restrictive impact on competition”.
As a result, the watchdog said an increase in spectrum caps “should necessarily be linked to the imposition of a wholesale access obligation” for the operators that exceed the current limits and that it’s a concern that independent MVNOs in Spain have yet to offer 5G services. It thus proposes forcing MNOs to give MVNOs wholesale access to 5G coverage, with the CNMC itself tasked with resolving any possible conflicts.
Orange and Masmovil agreed the 50-50 merger in July 2022 and subsequently announced that that they expect to close the transaction during the second half of 2023 at the latest. The EC has opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed merger and is set to issue a decision on the deal by 21 August.
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