5G regulation and law in Austria

1. What is the state of 5G deployment in your country?

Austria has made significant steps in 5G roll-out, auctioning frequencies in 2019 and 2020 to leading operators A1 Telekom, Hutchison Drei and Magenta Telekom, as well as smaller, regional bidders. 

5G is widely available in all provincial capitals, and according to the Austrian Broadband Atlas, more than half of all households were covered as of January 2021. Reports predict coverage of up to 90% by the end of 2025.

2. Are telecoms companies monetising 5G investments - or are the services provided to consumers at similar prices to 4G? 

Roll-out is partly financed by consumers, as network operators have to pay for both frequencies and infrastructure, with insufficient support from the state. 

5G tariffs have been getting cheaper, but still cost significantly more than 4G. We predict that the price difference will level off over time. 

3. Has 5G been launched for industrial purposes? For which sectors?

5G has been launched for industrial purposes and is available to companies depending on their location.

It is difficult to determine to what degree 5G is already used in industry due to a lack of government publications. In 2015, a semi-governmental institution, "Industry 4.0 Austria", was set up, while non-governmental reports cover industrial 5G uses such as intelligent factories and the Internet of Things. 

4. What is being done to ensure that a wide range of operators and industrial companies, from small to large, have access to frequencies?

There have been two significant 5G frequency auctions. To encourage 5G deployment in rural areas, discounts were offered to leading network operators A1 Telekom, Hutchison Drei and Magenta Telekom, as well as smaller, regional companies.

5G spectrum was auctioned at significantly cheaper prices than LTE (4G) frequencies. In the 4G auction, network operators had paid the government a combined EUR 2bn for the spectrum and received back a total of EUR 1bn in subsidies. For the 5G auction, the amount was only just over EUR 200m per auction.

The frequencies are in principle also accessible to stadiums, airports and other special premises.

5. What public tenders have awarded spectrum licences? 

Frequencies in the 3.5 GHz range were auctioned in 2019, while frequency packages in the 700 MHz, 1.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz ranges were auctioned in 2020. In the 2019 auction, 39 frequency blocks of 10 MHz each were allocated in 12 regions. A total of 390 MHz of frequencies in the 3410 MHz - 3800 MHz range were put up for auction. In the 2020 auction, usage rights were allocated for a total of 27 frequency packages in the 700 MHz (6 blocks), 2100 MHz (12 blocks) and 1500 MHz (9 blocks) frequency ranges.

5.1 What were the criteria for awarding each of the tenders?

At these auctions, any bidder could participate. Although the major network operators purchased the majority of spectrum, MASS Response, LIWEST, Salzburg AG and Holding Graz also acquired a significant amount of regional spectrum (see https://www.rtr.at/de/tk/5G-Auction-Outcome).

The barrier to participation in the tender was low. The auctions proceeded in the form of an open, simultaneous, ascending, multiple-round procedure. Those interested in frequency allocation could request the tender documents from the regulatory authority, for which the regulatory authority only charged EUR 300 as a cost compensation.

5.2 What are the conditions of the spectrum licence? 

There were, however, additional requirements for mandatory interconnection of the networks as well as a minimum bid for each region and additional coverage requirements with minimum standards for the respective (rural) regions. To participate in the auction, an applicant had to secure the lowest minimum bid for a 10 MHz block in the auction (in the case of the 2019 auction  EUR 19,700). There were also spectrum restrictions for the major network operators (between 150 and 190 MHz). There was also a ban on price-fixing, which the authority strictly enforced.

5.3 What is the price and how is it calculated?

The usage rights were granted for a period of approximately 20 years and grouped in 12 regions; the regional denomination is intended to give local network operators the opportunity to enter the high-speed mobile internet market. Frequencies were allocated in a technology-neutral way, offering flexibility to adapt usage conditions to future 5G standards.
A1 Telekom, Hutchison Drei and Magenta Telekom could bid for nationwide continuous frequency bands to cover densely populated regions. The tender took place in a two-phase auction. Firstly, in the award phase, bids for the desired amount of MHz in the twelve regions had to be submitted in several clock rounds. If spectrum remained unsold after the clock rounds, it could be allocated in another round of bidding. The winners of the allocation phase then had to bid in the allocation phase for the specific blocks they needed in the spectrum.

In the 2019 pioneer band auction, the bidders paid a total of EUR 188m (A1 Telekom: EUR 64,345,972; Hutchison Drei: EUR 51,910,054; T-Mobile: EUR 56,903,001; MASS Response: EUR 1,845,000; LIWEST: EUR 5,328,000; Salzburg AG: EUR 4,359,449; Holding Graz: EUR 2,998,100).

In the 2020 multi band auction, Magenta Telekom paid a combined EUR 86.7m for 100 MHz of spectrum: 2x20 MHz in the 700 MHz band, 1x20 MHz in the 1,500 MHz band and 2x15 MHz in the 2,100 MHz band. Hutchinson Drei acquired 2x10 MHz in the 700 MHz band, 2x20 MHz in the 2,100 MHz band and 1x30 MHz in the 1,500 MHz band for EUR 49.5m. A1 Telekom spent around EUR 65.6m for 2x25MHz in the 2,100 MHz band and 1x30 MHz in the 1,500 MHz band. These figures relate to the federal level. Regionally, MASS Response, LIWEST, Salzburg AG and Holding Graz also acquired frequencies (see https://www.rtr.at/de/tk/5G-Auction-Outcome).

The pricing was calculated on the minimum bidding amounts for the respective regions and was adjusted during the course of the multi-phase bidding process, which the state had to subsidise (operators paid EUR 2bn, of which EUR 1bn was subsidised).

6. Is there a long-term spectrum plan or announcements for future tenders? 

The regulator completed all 5G auctions, with the pioneer-band auction in 2019 and the multi-band auction in 2020.

7. If 5G specific rules are drafted, what do they say?

The specific rules (apart from general spectrum and radio emissions regulations) for the tenders were set by the regulatory authority (see https://www.rtr.at/en/tk/Frequenzen and the comments made so far).

Apart from that, the Austrian Telecommunications Act sets out all relevant regulatory standards for 5G.

8. What focused 5G network or spectrum sharing regulation exists?

So far, there have not been any (publicly disclosed) issues with 5G implementation, or any decisions regarding non-compliance with 5G concessions’ obligations. This may be due to the fact that the regulator works together closely with the providers and initiates proceedings only in exceptional, severe cases.

9. Are 5G network sharing or spectrum sharing agreements in place? 

The 5G rules on network or spectrum sharing are the general ones appearing in the Telecommunications Act (see Question 11).

Furthermore, Order ETU/531/2018, 25 May 2018, establishes that spectrum must be used effectively and efficiently.

The regulator confirmed again in a white paper in 2020 that it wanted to support any type of 5G infrastructure sharing activity (see https://www.rtr.at/TKP/aktuelles/publikationen/publikationen/5G_whitepaper.de.html). 

10. What are or will be the rules for granting competitors access to new 5G networks once they are deployed?

No network sharing or spectrum sharing agreements have been (so far) publicly disclosed.

11. What comments have been made regarding 5G cyber-security and possible use of Chinese technology, including regulation?

The regulatory authority may impose obligations on relevant companies wishing to share passive infrastructure or agreeing local roaming access agreements as long as it is directly necessary for providing services at the local level and  no other practicable and alternative means of access to end-users are available. The regulatory authority may only impose such obligations where this possibility has been explicitly provided for in the spectrum assignment and where this is justified by the existence of insurmountable economic or physical barriers to the market-driven roll-out of infrastructure in the relevant area, resulting in end-users receiving poor access to networks or services.

12. What comments have been made regarding 5G cyber-security and possible use of Chinese technology, including regulation?

In 2020, the regulator issued the Telecom Network Security Regulation, which contains general provisions on network security, including 5G network security requirements, but no specific regulations relating to China. 

See: RIS - Telekom-Netzsicherheitsverordnung 2020 - Bundesrecht konsolidiert, Fassung vom 09.01.2023 (bka.gv.at)

It appears that network operators are cautious about using Chinese network equipment. According to a survey by a major newspaper, only one of the major network operators (Magenta Telekom) uses equipment from Huawei, as does smaller operator Liwest.

See: 5G-Ausbau und Huawei: So halten es Österreichs sieben Netzbetreiber - Telekom - derStandard.de › Web

Portrait ofEgon Engin-Deniz
Egon Engin-Deniz
Portrait ofLukas Roberts
Lukas Roberts