Mobile network operator Telefonica has filed an injunction to put the brakes on Germany’s 5G spectrum allocation proceedings, and Deutsche Telekom may follow suit.
A Telefonica spokesperson told Handelsblatt that it had filed an emergency motion with the administrative court in Cologne but said, "We are not commenting on ongoing proceedings."
Handelsblatt saw a copy of the injunction, in which Telefonica objects to the influence federal and state governments exerted on the Federal Network Agency’s auction rules and supplier conditions. The owner of the O2 brand had complained for months that the auction’s conditions were unclear.
When asked about Deutsche Telekom’s plans, a spokesperson told Handelsblatt, "We have not yet made an urgent request, to avoid delaying the auction schedule.” But O2's suit has changed the situation. "We are therefore examining all legal options," he said.
Michael Ott, a spokesperson for the Cologne court, confirmed to Reuters that Telefonica had filed for a temporary suspension of the frequency auction, which is scheduled for the second half of March and expected to raise €5 billion ($5.7 billion).
Judges must now consider whether there are legal grounds to stop the auction, and that could put the original timetable for the auction in danger. "It is currently not foreseeable when a decision will be made," Ott said.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung first reported about Telefonica’s filing, the latest in a line of suits concerning the 5G auctions pending at the Administrative Court in Cologne. Telekom, Vodafone, Telefonica, 1&1 and Freenet had all filed lawsuits by the start of January, but so far, none of them have succeeded in pausing the auction.
Telefonica, Germany’s No. 3 mobile operator behind Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, had complained in recent months about the frequency auction, arguing that many of the specifications were not precise enough.
Telefonica Germany CEO Markus Haas told Handelsblatt in December it was wrong for politicians to demand that network operators share their infrastructure to cover gaps – so-called domestic roaming. "We have already invested €20 billion in infrastructure in Germany. We have always said that we will continue to invest if the conditions are right," Haas said.
Telefonica was already required by EU regulators to make 30 percent of its capacity available to virtual network operator 1&1 Drillisch after its 2014 merger with E-Plus. Drillisch, a unit of United Internet, has applied to bid in the spectrum auction, raising the prospect of a fourth major mobile network in Europe’s largest market.
Stephan Scheuer is co-head of Handelsblatt's feature and people's desk. Daniel Delhaes covers parliament for Handelsblatt in Berlin. Grace Dobush is an editor with Handelsblatt Today in Berlin. To contact the authors: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]