SES, Albertis spat intensifies

From David Del Valle in Madrid

The dispute between SES Astra and Abertis Telecom over the distribution of DTT via satellite is intensifying, less than two months before the analogue switch-off scheduled for April 3 2010

The Luxembourg-based company has taken the case to the Spanish Telecommunication Market Commission (CMT) accusing Abertis of abuse of a dominant position in the carriage of the DTT signal.

According to Astra, Abertis Telecom, the main shareholder in the Spanish satellite Hispasat, is competing unfairly in the market by charging punitive tariffs that are hindering Astra’s development in the DTT business. Abertis Telecom was previously punished by the Spanish Competition Authorities in May 2009 with a E22.7 million fine for its monopoly in the DTT market.

SES Astra has lodged a case to the European competition authorities against the Spanish Government for its alleged preferential treatment to Abertis Telecom in the deployment of DTT in the country.

SES Astra has accused the Spanish administration of helping out its main competitor in the market Hispasat, controlled by Abertis with a 33.4 per cent stake, to win contracts to distribute DTT via satellite in those areas with poor DTT coverage.

SES Astra claimed that the Ministry of Industry was putting pressure on the Regional Governments not to have public tenders, as the satellite distribution would be given for free to Hispasat.

The company has also appealed against several public DTT tenders in some Spanish Regions on the grounds that they were in breach of competition.

By law, DTT coverage must reach 96 per cent of the population in private TVs' case and 98 per cent regarding public television by 2010. But, in certain regions, due to geographical problems, satellite distribution will be needed to cover up to 10 per cent.

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