The SBB company has sued the Serbian telecommunications watchdog agency RATEL over a July 2019 decision under which RATEL defined SBB and the state-owned Telekom Serbia as “operators with significant market power” on the wholesale broadband market, that is as monopoly holders on the Internet market and set several obligations to both operators.
SBB said that the decision is disputable because Telekom is a far stronger player on the market, controlling key network infrastructure and with a far greater number of users, but it’s debatable that the RATEL did not take into consideration the significant acquisitions by Telekom in the past and the construction of an optical network. The hearing was open to the public but journalists were not allowed into the courtroom.
Telekom Serbia and SBB, even though they are undoubtedly the main competitors on the Serbian telecommunications markets, are something completely different to RATEL. In July 2019, RATEL decided that SBB and Telekom are operators with significant market power, that is that “they appear on the Internet access market in tune with each other”.
The two companies, which are fighting fiercely for their share of the market, are monopoly holders together to RATEL and because of that, the two companies have several obligations covering access to their network by other operators. “The Telekom Serbia and SBB operators are obliged to implement the obligation of indiscriminate behaviour towards other operators to provide services under equal conditions and with the same quality as they do for their own needs,” RATEL said.
The decision is disputable for SBB and the company sued RATEL. SBB said that the state-owned Telekom controls key infrastructure in Serbia and is a much stronger player on the Internet market. The network coverage shows that Telekom is in almost all households, unlike SBB which covers 30 towns and cities. Surprisingly, RATEL ignored the public acquisitions of cable operators which Telekom completed recently and the construction of an optic network across Serbia which additionally reinforced Telekom’s market position, SBB lawyer Veljko Smiljanic said.
“RATEL has not only ignored but has freed of regulation the entire Supernova network which Telekom bought and the entire optic network the Telekom has been building with Huawei all over Serbia in the past few years. That means that Telekom has accepted the obligation of offering services only through the oldest network which it is fleeing as fast as it can and has regulated the entire active SBB network. We feel that this is untenable and we hope the court will agree with us,” Smiljanic said.
RATEL has never before found that a joint significant market force exists. SBB said that the decision prevents fair competition between the state-owned and the private company. RATEL did not appear at the hearing at the Administrative Court.
“RATEL has come up with various legal formulations to show or try to show that SBB and Telekom Serbia are together and in harmony on the market. It’s clear to each of us users that this formulation is untenable. We know that Telekom Serbia as a state-owned operator and SBB as the biggest private operator are very intensively and very fiercely in competition,” Smiljanic said.
Although the hearing was public, journalists were banned from the courtroom with the explanation that “media crews interested in the process did not apply to the court on time”. Whether RATEL is right or wrong is a decision that will be taken in the next month. SBB is part of the United Group which includes N1 TV.