The European Commissioner for Competition, Joaquin Almunia, is expected to rule that the acquisition won’t harm competition or turn Skype into a Microsoft-exclusive platform.
BERLIN — A decade ago, mobile phone network operators in Europe rushed to spend billions for the chance to provide high-speed wireless connections for clients.
Ten years later, as auctions for government licenses to upgrade those networks are set to begin, operators are considerably less excited. Instead of the €50 billion, or $68 billion, spent in 2000, they are expected to bid about €5 billion at an auction that is to start April 12 in Germany.
The restraint reflects the general economic downturn, but also the recognition that quantum leaps in wireless speed alone no longer guarantee success for operators, which are confronting saturated and static markets in Europe.
“The market is in a different phase of development than it was a decade ago,” said Jeanette Dobson, an analyst at Analysys Mason in Edinburgh, who studied the issue for the European Commission. “Back then, the mobile industry was relatively untapped and we were in the midst of the dot-com era.”
Operators paid as much as €4 billion for a license in the German auction a decade ago, only to have to wait more than five years for equipment makers to create the services and devices that would work on the the network. The new networks are expected to triple the speed of existing broadband connections and will require similar upgrades.
Mobile phone operators must now limit how much they charge customers for using the Internet within the European Union, after new rules went into effect Monday.
Customers have until July 1 to set a maximum monthly cost with their network, and those who do not will by default have a €50 ($68) limit set.