Major Portuguese telecom companies sign up for 5G auction amid legal disputes

LISBON (Reuters) – The three largest Portuguese telecom companies said they have filed applications to participate in the country’s 5G license auction amid a legal dispute with Portugal’s telecom regulator over the rules.

NOS, Vodafone and Altice – who together serve nearly 100% of Portuguese mobile customers – said they applied for the auction on November 27.

ANACOM has reserved a portion of the spectrum in the 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz bands for new entrants, as a push to incentivize competition and improve services.

Altice, Vodafone and NOS will have to share their infrastructure and offer national roaming to the customers of new entrants.

About 15 days ago, the three established players filed interim injunctions in a Lisbon court against the rules, which they claim unfairly favors newcomers. They also sent complaints to the European Commission.

A spokeswoman for ANACOM rejected any discrimination and stated that the measures “aim to generate a positive impact on competition and end users, creating the conditions for new and diversified operations to appear on the market”.

A spokesperson for Altice Portugal said: “The submission of bids does not guarantee, nor does it require, that candidates will advance in the auction.”

“We reiterate … the 5G auction rules … represent a huge setback to competitiveness and undermine the sustainability of the sector, reducing and destroying investment and value creation,” he said.

A spokesperson for NOS said the company expected the auction rules had changed.

A spokesperson for Vodafone Portugal said: “We maintain the hope that some of the legal actions can still be decided in time”.

The auction, which the government hopes to raise around 238 million euros ($ 285.17 million), is expected to run until January. There is no fixed deadline for judging court cases.

($ 1 = 0.8346 euros)

By Sergio Goncalves, Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Jane Merriman