Austrian telcos complain that 5G network expansion has stalled

VIENNA, July 15 (Reuters) - Austria's three major mobile network providers said on Wednesday that the expansion of the 5G network in the country had stalled, partly due to high rental costs for mobile masts and a lack of state incentives.

Austria, with a population of 8.9 million, has pledged to become a 5G pioneer in Europe. It aims for main traffic routes to have 5G services available by the end of 2023 and to have "virtually nationwide" 5G coverage by the end of 2025.

But after a promising start, the telecoms companies now say the framework conditions are inadequate.

"It's stuck," said Andreas Bierwirth, the chief of Deutsche Telekom's DTEGn.DE Austrian division Magenta, who was talking about the expansion process at an online industry panel.

"We see that especially in Germany a lot is going on ... in other countries too ... and with bad luck we will be overtaken left and right by one or the other country."

The government had committed to provide public infrastructure for mobile masts, but the implementation has been slow, said Jan Trionow, chief of Chinese Hutchison's 0001.HK Drei Austria.

Bierwirth said rental costs for mobile masts in Austria are often more than twice as much as in German cities such as Berlin or Munich.

The highest prices are often charged by Austrian public companies.

Austria's 3 billion euro ($3.4 billion) mobile network expansion is mainly funded by the three telecom companies, which also include A1 Telekom Austria TELA.VI, in equal shares.

A reduction in mobile mast costs and frequency fees as well as tax incentives for private households and improved cooperation with communities could help the industry to better cope with the challenges, said Trionow.

($1 = 0.8765 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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