Four Polish operators fined over cartel

Four Polish mobile operators have been fined a total PLN 113.7 million (USD $34.1 million) by the country’s competition authority UOKiK for running a cartel that held back development of mobile TV services. UOKiK stated that the four companies participated as a consortium known as Mobile TV in a competition for a mobile license in 2009, but subsequently lost out to the successful bidder Info-TV-FM.

The companies then entered an illegal agreement lasting over two and a half years to prevent the launch of DVB-H mobile TV services in Poland. Polkomtel will be required to pay PLN33.4 million, Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa PLN34 million, PTK Centertel PLN35 million and P4 PLN10.7 million.

The UOKiK found evidence showing that the cartel had colluded publicly to question and cast doubt on the reliability of Info-TV-FM and the validity of its bid, discouraging cooperation. The companies shared classified information, and were “fully aware of the anti-monopoly risk they exposed themselves to.”

The effect was to end the development of the DVB-H wholesale TV market in Poland. As it happens, DVB-H has been unraveling in other European countries, largely because deployment costs were higher than expected, and it failed to gain widespread support around the world both by operators and device makers. These reasons were cited by Dutch operator KPN for the ending of its DVB-H Mobile TV service from June 2011, re-allocating the spectrum to its Digitenne DTT platform.

Perhaps then, the operation of the Polish cartel indirectly saved the country money by obstructing wasted investment in DVB-H.