Leipzig / Bonn (dpa) – In the dispute over a multi-billion dollar mobile radio auction, Germany’s top administrative judges want to know whether everything was done correctly.
The Federal Administrative Court announced on Thursday that a lawsuit had been filed of the mobile operator EWE Tel had been referred back to the Cologne administrative court. It must be clarified whether the regulatory authority was “free of procedural and balancing errors” in its decision on awarding rules.
The judges also fear that the Federal Ministry of Transport was illegally influencing it. You see indications that the ministry has tried “to a considerable extent, in particular to influence the definition of the coverage obligations”.
Standards for 5G
At the auction for Four telecommunications groups had acquired frequencies for the 5G mobile communications standard for a total of 6.5 billion euros. They committed themselves to minimum expansion targets, for example that by the end of 2022 they would download 98 percent of the households in each federal state with at least 100 Mbit per second in the download
On the other hand, the federal government waived a so-called service provider obligation – such a regulation or at least strict requirements would have helped significantly smaller mobile phone providers who do not have their own network and rent network capacities. Their position would have been strengthened vis-à-vis the large network operators.
With EWE Tel and Freenet, two smaller mobile phone providers felt they were at a disadvantage and went to court. The Federal Administrative Court is now backing them up. The proceedings are about the lawsuit by EWE Tel. However, the judgment is also good news for Freenet, which is suing separately. Both companies welcomed the Leipzig judge’s verdict and hope that their position will be improved after all.
Accusation of influence is in the room
The subject is explosive. Because it is about the question of whether politics exerted influence on an actually independent authority and whether this had an impact on the awarding rules. In the room there is the accusation of a political deal – that on the one hand the network operators were condemned to very tough expansion targets, on the other hand they were treated mildly when it comes to network leasing.
The Federal Network Agency rejects this accusation: The decision in favor of the rules had been taken on the basis of technical considerations, and nothing promised to politicians, according to a spokesman for the authorities. A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Transport, which is also responsible for the digital infrastructure, says that there was no instruction from the Ministry “and no other attempt to improperly influence the Federal Network Agency”.
The network agency spokesman said his Authority has “always pointed out in political discussions about the 5G decision that the decision is made independently”. The quote makes it clear that there was a need to speak internally about the independence of the regulatory authority.