Could AT&T be Czech Republic’s next major telecom operator?

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s tweet that he was lobbying for the opening of an Apple Store in Prague received much attention from Czech media. However, server iDNES.cz reports that the Czech PM also discussed the possibility of introducing American telecoms giant AT&T as the fourth major mobile phone operator in the country.

John Donovan, Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK/Jakub StřihavkaJohn Donovan, Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK/Jakub Střihavka There is a chance that AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company, could soon be operating on the Czech market, at least according to iDNES.cz, which reports that Mr Babiš talked to John Donovan, the head of AT&T’s global telecommunications division, while in Davos last week. Vladimír Dzurilla, the PM’s advisor for ICT and digitalization, said that the meeting revolved around the quality of mobile networks, the price of services and network development.

Jan Matura, iDNES’s telecoms expert, says AT&T’s possible entry is likely connected to the Czech Telecommunication Office’s (CTO) 5G frequency auction, which is due to begin in the second half of 2019.

CTO says that it is counting on opening up space for a new company to enter the market.

Right now the Czech mobile services market is seen as quite saturated and expectations are that if any new operator were to enter, it would offer lower prices.

Currently AT&T’s footprint in the Czech Republic is limited to a service centre and development offices.

Given the conglomerate’s focus on the Americas, it is unlikely it would seek to enter the Czech market by itself.

However, a form of partnership, whether technological or in a consulting role could be possible, says Jan Matura.

There are now three major mobile services operators in the Czech Republic – O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone. These provide services to 93 percent of the country’s mobile phone users.

Mobile tariffs are known to be extremely high compared to other European states. For example, T-Mobile’s rate for unlimited data in Poland is PLN 50 a month, which converts to CZK 300. In the Czech Republic the same provider offers 500MB for CZK 499.