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Thirteen Bidders in Czech Fixed Wireless Tender

[Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC] The Czech government has started to evaluate bids in tender for three licenses for nation-wide fixed wireless access (FWA) network. Thirteen companies and consortia take part in the tender.

Fixed wireless access (FWA) networks allow for high capacity - at least two megabits per second - data transmission to end-users, making Internet connection much faster than standard telephone lines. FWA access offers better price-to-value ratio than ISDN or xSDL technologies and is increasingly popular across the Europe. In many other European countries FWA technology is in the same stage as in the Czech Republic - tenders opened by government or building of networks. The Czech tender is pure "beauty contest", not the auction with the highest offer winning all, which is common in Europe. Czech FWA networks will work on frequency of 26 GHz.

There are several strong international players among the companies bidding for Czech FWA licenses, including Dutch cable operator UPS, German broadband specialist StarOne, French telecommnunication gigant Vivendi and pan-European FWA specialist Broadnet, partially owned by the U.S. cable operator Comcast. Several others important names, especially FirstMark and Callino, were expected to take part in the tender but retreated at the last moment.

The Czech government said before the tender that current fixed-line monopoly Czech Telecom will be excluded from bidding in order to boost competition. Nevertheless, Czech Telecom has appeared among the bidders. The Czech Telecommunications Office has to decide now what to do with the bid of Czech incumbent telco. It is generally expected to refuse it but lawyers of Czech Telecom insist on having law on their side. Czech Telecom's fixed-line monopoly will gradually narrow from the beginning of 2001 and the market will be fully liberalised from January 2003.

The future Czech fixed wireless access networks are expected to be operational in 2001. All the potential operators presume small and medium enterprises as their principal customers. Internet connection via FWA is currently too expensive for residential usage. Small businesses could also take advantage, because the moving of business Internet traffic into the 26 GHz band will make the slower access in 3,5 GHz and 2,4 GHz bands significantly cheaper.