German operators "given unfair advantage" on spectrum, claims MVNO Europe

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German operators are holding back innovation and disrupting competition by not giving MVNOs adequate access to spectrum, industry body MVNO Europe has claimed.

The organisation is calling for the forthcoming auction of 2GHz and 3.6GHz spectrum to include mandatory network access or to encourage operators to formally commit to allowing MVNOs to use their spectrum.

It accused Telekom Deutschland, Telefónica Deutschland and Vodafone of not sufficiently supporting MVNOs.

A spokesperson said: "Many [MVNOs], as well as industrial companies willing to develop 5G networks and services, see their commercial and innovation potential curtailed, due to that fact that fit-for-purpose wholesale access to 4G is prevented by these MNOs.

"MVNO Europe believes that the behaviour of incumbent German operators runs counter to enabling competition and innovation. This is therefore detrimental to consumers’ interests as well as businesses of all sizes."

In May, when German regulator BNetzA outlined the conditions of the spectrum auction, which is expected to take place early next year, it said it was unnecessary to impose conditions for wholesale provision.

It said: "An obligation was not felt to be necessary in view of the fact that the wholesale market was functioning well. In particular, contracts were already being concluded that went above and beyond the applicable service provider obligation."

Jacques Bonifay, Chairman of MVNO Europe said: “Concerns that cementing the current market structure would endanger German industrial interests as well as impede both innovation and competition on consumer and business markets.”

He added: "Such a market evolution may prevent the emergence of pan-European and global 5G-based services delivered by European companies, given that it will be impossible to ‘scale-up’ in Europe if Germany cannot adequately be served”.

Deutsche Telekom is one of the operators playing with pre-commercial 5G technology, with a testbed stretching across Berlin, while Telefónica Deutschland has developed a 5G antenna for small spaces