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Alexandre Fonseca: “5G today is less of a priority than it would have been 4 months ago”

"A few months ago I mentioned that it was almost impossible to have 5G in 2020. The dates that were presented [by Anacom] point to the allocation of DUF [rights of use of frequencies] for the first quarter of 2021, which means that the service can to be launched sometime during the first quarter, Alexandre Fonseca acknowledged to journalists today, the margin of the MEO Energia presentation conference that represents Altice Portugal's entry into a new business area, selling electricity services.

The CEO and President of Altice Portugal is not concerned, however, with the postponement that Anacom acknowledged yesterday, with the publication of a new calendar for the frequency allocation auction, after a public consultation that counted with more than 500 contributions. Alexandre Fonseca had already made the disagreement regarding the resumption of public consultation public, but now he adds an additional concern.

This consultation process is exactly the same as that launched before the pandemic. All political leaders, economists, say that after the pandemic everything changed. The only one who thinks that nothing has changed the president of Anacom, he says.

For the manager of Altice Portugal, the auction has to change because the strategic priorities of the states and the economy are not the same as they were 4 months ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Look at investments on the health, education, social intervention, and protection of people, which are now more priorities for the states than they were probably 4 months ago, he says, stressing that today it makes even less sense to speak at the levels of expected investment that we said at the time that it was completely irrational from the point of view of the coverage requirements in a set of infrastructures.

To the value of the investment planned for the acquisition of 5G licenses, which exceeds 239.7 million euros in the whole spectrum, Alexandre Fonseca also adds the coverage and the need for infrastructure. 4 months ago we said that we thought the coverage was too much, but we did. After the pandemic, we verified that there are too many, because we have seen traffic growth ranging from 30% on the mobile network to 100% on television, passing by 60% on the fixed network, and we have passed through this phase in Portugal without any impact.

Alexandre Fonseca recalls that in recent months 4G and fiber infrastructures have absorbed the growth in usage without fail. This means that the networks that are available to the Portuguese are more than sufficient for what the digital transition plan defined by the Government, which makes perfect sense and with which we agree, but which apparently the current technologies can still support, during For some time, this digital transition, he says.

The focus should be on reducing the asymmetries between the interior and the coast, areas with higher and lower GDP per capita, and on bringing critical infrastructure to people across the country at the expense of investments that do not have the same type of priority that they had 4 months ago behind, defends. Today, as a citizen, I value a euro that is invested in education, health, and social responsibility much more than 1 euro invested in 5G, he assured journalists.

I do not say that 5G is not necessary, a necessary technology, will be part of our daily lives and our ecosystem, a matter of priorities, he says, admitting that 5G today is less of a priority than it would have been 4 months ago.

Explaining that he has no doubt that 5G is a game changer technology and that it will change things globally, he says that we have to manage in a balanced way the need for investments in the economy at a time of recessive curve like the one we are beginning to cross and investments of this magnitude like 5G.

Although not fully sharing what was Altice Portugal's position in the response to Anacom's public consultation, Alexandre Fonseca argues that the company believes that, for example, the allocation of licenses should not be done with a head-on payment for licenses that will not have commercial value immediate. It should be done gradually, according to the commercial exploitation of that product, [] if it is over the first 2/3 or 5 years, payment should also be phased over that period, he says, saying that this is the type of measures that can help so as not to run the risk of spending the entire auction money and then there will be no money for technology and for launching the service.

Disagreements and inconsistencies in the public consultation process

The criticisms of the regulator and the public consultation process had already been shared by Alexandre Fonseca, who emphasizes that the reopening of the auction consultation goes against a decree law that is still in force and that suspended the process. But the disagreements are more widespread.

Altice strongly disagrees with what the content of the consultation, the methodology of the consultation and those that are the coverage obligations embedded in the consultation, and other mechanisms such as what constitutes situations of artificial benefit to the entry of new operators that we believe are not only neither legitimate nor even fair, he says.

Even so, it does not rule out participation in the auctioning of licenses. these are issues that we have to analyze in light of what is going to happen, he says, adding that he believes that something will certainly change in the next weeks or months, before we reach the auction phase and that, above all, reasonableness and balance in the face of moments like these that we live from an economic and social point of view will make it possible for us to review this situation and, with that, make the whole process more balanced.

It is recalled that Anacom yesterday shared the new calendar for the 5G auction, after ending a public consultation with more than 500 contributions. SAPO TEK contacted NOS and Vodafone to find out their position, but the operators did not comment on the topic.