Telenor lands record fine over mobile speed caps for rivals' customers

Telenor, Norway's biggest telco, looks set to be fined for not giving customers of its wholesale partners the same speeds as it gives its own mobile users.
Written by Stig Øyvann, Contributor

The Norwegian telecom regulator NPT (Post- ogTeletilsynet) has notified Telenor, Norway's incumbent telco, that it is about to be fined a record high NOK 5m (€620,000) for violations of the Norwegian electronic communications law, known as e-com.

The allegation is that Telenor has not met its obligation to provide its wholesale customers with access to its 2G and 3G networks on the same terms as its own retail operations, and not to discriminate between its own end users and those of operators renting capacity from the company.

The NPT's decision follows a complaint lodged with the regulator by Network Norway, owned by Norway's number three mobile operator Tele2, earlier this year. Tele2 rents network capacity from Telenor in areas where it has no network infrastructure of its own, under a domestic roaming agreement.

Bandwidth cap

The issue at stake is that Telenor capped the bitrate allocated to customers of the operators which have domestic roaming agreements with it. While Telenor's own end users are offered theoretical maximum download speeds of up to 40Mbps on its 3G network, Tele2's customers have seen their speeds capped at 8Mbps.

Telenor has been using such caps since 2010, and claims in its defence that the roaming partners are given the maximum bitrate that was available at the time when they signed the domestic roaming deals with Telenor. However, between now and then, Telenor has regularly upgraded its 3G network but hasn't provided any increased capacity to roaming customers.  After Telenor implemented DC-HSPA+ on its 3G network in June this year, it brought in a theoretical maximum download speed of 40 Mbps.

However, under the NPT's decision this week, Telenor must offer the same speeds and service to customers of the operators with which it has domestic roaming agreements as it does to those on its own network.

Telenor argues that if its roaming customers received 4G-type speeds without paying extra for it, the company's own 4G development will suffer if the decision stands.  However, in NPT's ruling, they clearly state that Telenor's 4G LTE network is not covered by the partner access obligation that exists in the company's 3G licence.

Obviously, the complainants are satisfied with NPT's decision. "There's no doubt that Telenor has acted in a manner that damages the competition situation in the mobile market in Norway," FrodeLillebakken, legal director at Tele2's Norwegian operation, said in a statement.

Record fine

Telenor has got 14 days to respond to the decision. If the company cannot provide "substantial evidence to the contrary" of NPT's ruling, the decision will stand and NPT will be issued the biggest fine in the regulator's history.

According to the e-com law, Telenor can lodge an appeal against the fine with the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Ultimately, the final decision on the matter may be one for Norway's courts.

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