5G regulation and law in Bulgaria

Information current as of 7 January 2020

What is the state of 5G deployment in Bulgaria?

The launch of 5G is expected by the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. It is expected that the procedure for granting frequency spectrum resources will start by July 2020. However, some experts in the sector express concerns that the launch could be delayed due to certain regulatory and legal matters to be considered and addressed. The main challenges are:

•    spectrum release and efficient use of the spectrum;
•    significant decrease of spectrum prices; and
•    substantial simplification of the authorisation regime for the construction of telecommunications infrastructure.

Currently, the low bands suitable for 5G coverage – e.g. 700 MHz – are still used by the military. The 3.5 GHz spectrum is available, but the price is to be adjusted and synchronised with best practices in the EU so that it is accessible to operators and consumers. The Bulgarian Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications recently commented that the development of 5G is part of the European context and as such, the Government is committed to consider appropriate measures as decreasing the initial and annual fees collected for using the spectrum. The procedure for obtaining a construction permit for telecommunication stations would also have to be revised, as it takes between one and two years, and the development of 5G needs tens of thousands of stations.

Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?

As 5G is not yet commercially launched, no companies are launching 5G services yet. However, the three operators in the Bulgarian market – A1 Bulgaria, Telenor and Vivacom – are preparing to provide 5G services in the course of 2020/2021. All three telecoms operators held successful 5G tests and demonstrated 5G operating in their networks, thus confirming that their infrastructure is ready to provide 5G services.

According to publicly available information, Nokia, Alcatel and Huawei are interested in the development of the 5G infrastructure.

Are there any public tenders for spectrum licences?

No.

Has there been any comment on when there might be?

According to publicly available information, the procedure for granting frequency spectrum resources is expected to start by July 2020.

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

The government is taking a very 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?

Not yet. The Bulgarian legislator needs to provide amendments to the legislation to ensure and facilitate the development of 5G infrastructure and services. The telecoms companies are taking part in consultations with the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, the Communications Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works.

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

It is too early in the 5G launch process to determine the rules.

Picture of Atanas Bangachev
Atanas Bangachev
Partner
Sofia