The Federal Cartel Office continues to investigate the expanded cooperation of mobile operators Telekom and Vodafone in the LTE network. A spokesman for the agency told dpa on Wednesday that the agency was reviewing whether the cooperation was permissible under antitrust law. The two carriers had announced in February that they would work more closely together in less developed regions, including sharing infrastructure.
It was to be expected that the Federal Network Agency and the Cartel Office would have something to say about this. Vodafone and Telekom have therefore involved the regulatory authorities from the outset. The antitrust review is still ongoing, reported the Handelsblatt on Wednesday. "At the moment the Federal Cartel Office is in contact with the parties involved in the cooperation and other market participants", head of the authorities Andreas Mundt told the newspaper.
Authorities are benevolent
In other contexts, the authorities had already signaled that they were in favor of stronger cooperation between the competitors in the interest of better care. "The Federal Cartel Office basically buries cooperations to improve network coverage", Mundt told the Handelsblatt, as long as "not eliminate competition". However, other market players could be disadvantaged if they did not have the same opportunities.
The Cartel Office therefore wants to examine whether rivals such as Telefonica or 11 Drillisch could be disadvantaged. It should also be investigated whether extending the cooperation to other providers could lead to even greater advantages for consumers. Vodafone and Telekom had stated that in principle both companies were open to concluding similar agreements with other providers.
Vodafone defends the cooperation. A spokesperson explained to Handelsblatt that Vodafone has so far only cooperated with Deutsche Telekom for technical reasons. The shared use of the network infrastructure of other providers was "complex" and only "bilaterally" feasible. However, Vodafone is also interested in other cooperations and is currently in talks with Telefonica Deutschland.
Vodafone and Telekom want to work together to erase some 4000 so-called gray spots on the mobile phone map. In network sharing, the companies share the antennas on the mast and connect their respective core networks. In this way, customers continue to use their provider’s network, even if they use a competitor’s antenna infrastructure. According to Vodafone, only the access network and spectrum are shared.
Network sharing is to take place in selected, previously underserved rural locations, but not in metropolitan areas, where network operators have generally built out well. According to Vodafone, around 4,000 antennas are involved. The partners are taking care to maintain strict parity: each wants to provide the partner with exactly the same number of LTE antennas. According to the information, around 2000 sites are suitable for each of them.