5G regulation and law in Austria

Information current as of 15 January 2020

What is the state of 5G deployment in Austria?

Implementing 5G communication services is on the government’s agenda. For this purpose, the government has set out three phases:

  • Phase 1: Implementation of the first pre-commercial 5G trial installations by mid-2018.
  • Phase 2: Achieving the interim goal of an almost nationwide availability of ultrafast broadband network (100 Mbit/s) by the end of 2020.
  • Phase 3: Bringing 5G service availability to main traffic routes by the end of 2023; accomplishing nationwide 5G availability by the end of 2025.

While Phase 1 has already been completed, 5G deployment is now in Phase 2, which is divided into two stages:

  • Awarding the frequencies in the range 3.4 GHz - 3.8 GHz (“Pioneer Band”)
  • Awarding the frequencies in the ranges 700 MHz, 1500 MHz and 2100 MHz (“Multiband”)

The 3.4 GHz - 3.8 GHz frequencies have been awarded to seven bidders in early 2019 based on a public tender for spectrum licences.

On 11 December 2019, the regulatory authority published the tender documentation for the second stage of the 5G award (700, 1500 and 2100 MHz frequency bands). The application period for this procedure will end on 26 February 2020. The award is scheduled for April 2020.

Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?

Drei, T-Mobile and spusu are currently launching 5G. It might be reasonably assumed that the other bidders in the 3.4 GHz - 3.8 GHz frequency band, namely A1, LIWEST, Salzburg AG and Holding Graz, will launch 5G soon as well.

It is understood that 5G, besides being used as a mobile communications technology, may also be used as a carrier for broadcasting signals. Therefore, the Austrian Communications Authority has authorized a trial period for digital broadcasting based on 5G mobile communication standards. 

Are there any public tenders for spectrum licences?

Yes.

What are the conditions?

Seven bidders have acquired usage rights in the 3.4 -3.8 GHz range with a total market value of around EUR 188m. The three major mobile operators in Austria – A1, T-Mobile and Drei – have acquired nationwide licenses in each of the 12 regions put out for tender. Four other bidders were granted regional frequencies. Following the conclusion of the auction, the major mobile operators have announced their intentions to expand and invest in their 5G networks in Austria. Further information is available here.

As the next step, the award of Multiband takes place in 2020 covering the frequency ranges 700 MHz, 1500 MHz and 2100 MHz. The tender document for Multiband award has been published in December 2019. Deadline for application is on 26 February 2020. Further information is available here.

What has the government said regarding spectrum licences for commercial use?

The government is taking a positive position towards 5G spectrum licences for commercial use, and has emphasised the associated opportunities for citizens, the economy, industry and science.

Are the rules for 5G already drafted, and if so, what do they say?

We are not aware of any rules drafted for the use of 5G services. However, spectrum holders are bound by coverage obligations which oblige them to use the spectrum awarded to them. The coverage obligations are intended to ensure effective use of the spectrum and prevent any hoarding of it while also encouraging rapid roll-out of 5G infrastructure. Failure to meet coverage obligations is subject to a fine of up to EUR 10,000 per location not operated.

What are or would be the rules for granting competitors access to the new 5G networks, once they are deployed?

Network operators shall grant third party operators of electronic communications networks access to their physical infrastructure to the extent that the joint use is economically reasonable and technically feasible (open access obligations). The open access obligations are applicable to physical infrastructure. This means any element of a network which is intended to host other elements of a network, without itself becoming an active element of the network. The network operator granting open access to third parties shall be paid appropriate compensation.

Picture of Egon Engin Deniz
Egon Engin-Deniz
Partner
Vienna