Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Smidre asks extension of licence auction deadline

Latvian telecoms entrepreneur Peteris Smidre has asked the government to delay the planned auction of a third UMTS/GSM mobile telephony licence until unresolved issues concerning the regulation of interconnect fees are settled. Smidre is planning to enter the contest through his private company Alina together with an unnamed American partner. Smidre also heads the Baltkom fixed telecommunications and cable-TV group.
The pre-selection deadline for the auction was already once postponed from December 21 to February 25 after the Latvian Telecommunications Association said the auction was being rushed.
Smidre's PR consultant Evija Ansonska told this blogger that Smidre intends to go ahead with a preselection application on or before February 25 if the government doesn't change its plans.
A dispute arose after the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission sharply slashed the interconnect fees that Lattelekom, the dominant and incumbent fixed network operator, could charge. Lattelekom appealed the decision, effective January 1, to the Administrative Court and won a suspension of implementation of the new lower tariffs. The regulator sued to invalidate the suspension, but lost.
It appears unlikely that the government will extend the auction deadlines yet again, especially since the final settlement of the dispute between Lattelekom and the regulator, if appealed at all possible levels, could take years. It is rumored that the appeal against the lower interconnect rates will be heard on the merit some time in March. Lattelekom is challenging both the way that the regulator calculated the new interconnect rate ceiling as well as the legality of any regulation of these rates per se.

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