Will arrival of fourth operator help reduce high mobile data prices?

Photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay / CC0

The relatively high cost of mobile data in the Czech Republic has been in the headlines after a minister suggested people should consume more if they want to pay less. The prime minister is set to discuss the matter with operators and there have been suggestions that the planned arrival of a fourth operator will help customers make savings.

Marta Nováková,  photo: ČTK/Jaroslav Ožana
Just over a week ago, Marta Nováková, the ANO-appointed minister of industry and trade, made an eye-catching statement on the price of mobile phone data in the Czech Republic, which ranks among the highest in the whole of the EU.

Ms. Nováková told Czech Television that data was more costly than in other European states as Czechs were relatively reluctant to purchase it, making it harder for operators to make a return on their investment.

The suggestion that people should consume more in order to secure fairer prices instantly sparked an avalanche of criticism and countless online parodies.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš refused to take action against the minister, but did say she had expressed herself poorly.

Other politicians have since raised the suggestion that the answer does not lie with Czech customers downloading more; rather the planned arrival of a fourth operator on the market should put downward pressure on prices.

Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, senior ANO politician Jaroslav Faltýnek said his boss was on the case.

“The prime minister has written a letter to the head of the Association of Mobile Networks Operators, Jiří Šuchman, to ask him for a meeting to discuss the issues of prices, changing operators, fines for ending contracts early and preparations for a fourth operator.”

Czechs are currently served by Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2.

Photo: Gerd Altmann,  Pixabay / CC0
The launch of a fourth operator would prove a boon, as it has in other countries, according to Jakub Michálek of the Pirate Party.

Also speaking on Czech Television, he offered the example of Italy, where the arrival of the Iliad service last May shook things up in the country.

“They have prices that are 10 times lower than in the Czech Republic. Three million customers switched to Iliad and price levels dropped by 20 percent. When we are speaking about legislation, and we know that an auction should take place in the autumn, then all the major parties should agree to not overload the bill with lots of other things. We should limit the scope at the beginning, to make sure it is passed before the foreign operators carry out their calculations.”

Mr. Michálek also said that the Pirates were pushing for a reduction in the penalties imposed for annulling a contract with an operator and switching to a rival provider.

At present the maximum charge is a fifth of the fixed figure remaining until the customer’s contract expires.