21 Aug 2008

Do telecoms markets in CEE EU accession countries lag behind western neighbours in terms of fair competition?

I read yesterday that for the second time in less than a year Slovakia's incumbent telecoms operator has been fined by the country's anti-monopoly authority, the PMU, for abuse of dominant market position. The nature of the abuse is reported to be around failure to give network access to competing service providers. This recent fine is around EUR29.2 million, up from the EUR 17.4 million demanded by the PMU in late 2007 for anti-competitive behaviour.

It's not my role to study this situation in detail, so I am not clear what efforts, if any, Slovak Telekom (of which 51% is owned by Deutsche Telekom) has made to correct its business practices as a result of the earlier punishment. It is tempting to wonder, however, whether the level of these fines is high enough to prompt meaninful change. It certainly chimes with snippets I've picked up in 5 years of attending CEE region industry conference in Budapest, Bucharest and Prague. At most of these, I heard grumblings from altnets about the slow pace of positive change in terms of harmonisation with the broader EU telecoms regulatory framework.

We have not packed the agenda of next months CEE Com conference in Prague with discussions around regulatory and competition issues, but I daresay there will be the usual exchange of views during the offline networking sessions. If you represent an operator within the CEE region, or one whose footprint extends into that area, I invite you to visit the event website and claim your free delegate pass. Dates for your diary: 17-18 September. Venue: Clarion Congress Hotel, Prague.