Altice raises health concerns over 5G auction

 In News, Telecoms

Telecoms giant Altice Portugal has made a complaint to the General Directorate of Health about what it calls the “lack of health safety conditions” defined by telecoms regulator Anacom for the forthcoming 5G auction and the contamination risks for the telecoms team that will be following the auction.

The complaint comes after Vodafone had called for the auction to be suspended and now Altice, which is led by Alexandre Fonseca, has formally made his concerns known to the minister of Health, Marta Temido and the DGS saying that the “auction is being undertaken in an irresponsible manner from the point of view of heath safety and the protection of people.”
Portugal’s largest telecoms operators, Altice Portugal and NOS have been at loggerheads with the telecoms watchdog Anacom for months over 5G rules, with NOS threatening to cut investments to a minimum and carry out a cost-cutting restructuring in 2021 if the rules governing the 5G frequency license auction, which the providers say are unfair, are not reversed.
The row centres around the Portuguese regulator’s decision to reserve a spectrum in the 900 MHz bands for new entrants which it says will encourage competition and thereby improve services.
But the current market players Altice, Vodafone and NOS would have to share their infrastructure and offer national roaming to the new entrant’s customers and they don’t want to let in any boys on the block under those terms.
This latest spat with the regulator about the health conditions under which the auction would take place, could be seen by some analysts as a continuation of the bad blood that exists between operators and the regulator.
Although the auction process is based on an electronic internet platform, the operators’ teams must be actually present in he auction rooms specifically set up for the process in order to coordinate bids but which, because of the Covid situation, must inevitably lead to constraints. Questions have been raised about health safety.
The auction is currently on its 11th day of bidding at a time when Portugal recorded a record number of deaths and new infections from Covid-19.
In theory, the operators could carry out the auction remotely, but in practice that can’t happen. Strategy confidentiality is needed on the one hand, and the bids on the Anacom platform have to be fool-proof which cannot be assured using a platform from home which does not have high levels of security.
Therefore, being physically present is seen as essential given the importance and complexity of the process, a sector source told the online news source ECO.
Altice has therefore directed a formal complaint to the minister of Health’s office, pointing out that there have not been any changes made to the 5G auction after the new measures were decreed by the government on 14 January, and also criticises the silence from Anacom about the auction.