EC opens inquiry into allocation of mobile radio frequencies by Poland

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether the allocation by the Polish authorities of mobile radio frequencies to telecoms operator Sferia is in line with EU state aid rules.

Sferia is a Polish telecommunications operator, controlled by the Cyfrowy Polsat capital group, which is active in the telecommunications and broadcasting markets in Poland.

"The EC received complaints from a number of competing telecoms operators, alleging that, in 2013, the Polish authorities allocated a frequency block from the 800MHz 'digital dividend band' to Sferia without a selection procedure, at no additional cost, and without coverage obligations," the EC wrote in a press release on Monday.

"By contrast, other operators were assigned the remaining blocks of the 800 MHz 'digital dividend band' only in 2016, through a competitive process, against a payment (on average) of approximately EUR 390 million (PLN 1.7 billion) and with coverage obligations. According to the complainants, the allocation of mobile radio frequencies to Sferia in 2013 was not in line with EU State aid rules," the EC explained.

At this stage and based on the information available, the EC's preliminary view is that Sferia may have been awarded by the Polish authorities 800 MHz frequencies on more favourable terms than other operators and that, hence, the allocation may have amounted to state aid.

"The Commission will now investigate further to determine whether its initial concerns are confirmed. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives Poland and interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation," the EC stated.