Serbia’s Commission for the Protection of Competition has approved an infrastructure sharing agreement between Telekom Srbija (MTS) and Telenor Serbia that will allow the latter to begin offering fixed broadband services.
CommsUpdate reports that the deal allows MTS to provide Telenor with wholesale Ethernet bitstream services as well as lease its fibre-optic infrastructure. The companies have reportedly also signed a distribution deal relating to MTS’ broadcast content.
Approval from the commission was required as Serbia’s competition rules prevent cooperation between competitors within a market segment unless an exemption has been granted – as was the case for previous agreements that Telenor had signed with SBB and A1 Serbia (as VIP Mobile).
Local media had previously indicated that MTS intended to transfer control of various infrastructure assets to Telenor, or even that a merger would take place between the units.
United Group has persistently opposed the deal, claiming that leaked internal correspondence from MTS shows that the move is aimed at damaging the market share of its ISP unit SBB (Serbia Broadband). The unit is the Serbian government’s main rival in the media sector, and is the country’s second largest ISP.
Telenor stated that its proposed distribution agreement with United Group has not been accepted, saying: “Telenor has not yet received the rights and permission to distribute the content produced or owned by the United Group, such as H1, Nova S, Sport Club and others, a total of 22 channels. We are sorry that United Group made such a decision, and we remain open to further negotiations on channel distribution, convinced that they will recognise the importance of this cooperation for all – citizens of Serbia, companies operating in the same segment and society as a whole.”
Nonetheless, Telenor has confirmed that it is planning to invest EUR300 million (US$363 million) into Serbia across the next five years, and aims to launch fixed broadband services before the end of 2021.