Mobile Norway, owned by Tele2, signed an agreement with newcomer Ice in the hope it might allay competition concerns surrounding TeliaSonera’s bid for Tele2’s Norwegian unit.
As part of the agreement, Ice – backed by privately-held Access Industries – will acquire part of Tele2’s mobile infrastructure (in the event TeliaSonera wins regulatory approval for its Tele2 bid).
Norway’s competition authority is believed to be concerned that should TeliaSonera snap up Mobile Norway, then Netcom – TeliaSonera’s Norwegian unit – wouldn’t be interested in running the Tele2 network (content just to use the acquisition to boost market share).
That would leave Norway with a network duopoly between TeliaSonera and Telenor. Mobile Norway’s infrastructure deal with Ice (the financial details of which were not disclosed) should go some way to assuage those fears.
Another aspect of the arrangement is that Tele2 will lease spectrum from Ice (5MHz in the 900MHz band) from today (1 October) until 1 April 2015. TeliaSonera says this will guarantee network access by Mobile Norway’s existing customers in the transition period until the regulator decides on the acquisition.
“[The agreement] has a very positive impact on the competition on the Norwegian market,” said August Baumann, TeliaSonera Norway’s chief executive. “It helps to meet the political target according to which there should be three mobile networks in the country, while it also guarantees network access to Tele2’s customers until spring 2015, when the traffic will be switched over to our network.”
TeliaSonera announced its SEK5.1 billion bid for Tele2’s Norwegian operations in July. Tele2 was looking for a Norway exit after losing out to Ice in an auction of 4G spectrum. TeliaSonera also committed to 98 per cent 4G population coverage by end 2016, two years ahead of its previous obligations.
At its capital markets day (30 September) TeliaSonera said it would top up capital expenditure to the tune of SEK6-7 billion ($830-$965 million) during 2015-16 in an attempt to increase revenue from mobile data, 4G and fibre access across its Nordic and Eurasian markets.