A Polish court has rejected complaints filed by Ameritech International and France Telecom concerning a digital cellular license the two companies say the Polish government promised them five years ago and then later denied promising.
Ameritech International General Counsel Mark Chudzinski noted the matter is in international arbitration, but it could be months before a decision is delivered.
In 1991, Ameritech and France Telecom paid a combined $75 million for 49 percent ownership in Centertel, Poland’s current Nordic Mobile Telephone-450 analog provider. Government-owned Telekomunikacja Polska SA holds the controlling interest in Centertel.
In an interview last fall, Herbert Hribar, Ameritech International’s vice president of operations, told RCR initial negotiations to form the Centertel partnership included a letter of intent signed by the Polish Communications Ministry promising the partners a Global System for Mobile communications license when 900 MHz spectrum became available. The GSM license would serve as a natural upgrade to Centertel’s analog system, Hribar added.
However, in keeping with telecom laws passed in Polish parliament in the summer of 1995, the ministry reported that new digital cellular licenses must be awarded through competition. A tender for two GSM licenses followed, in which Ameritech and France Telecom were welcome to compete, said the government.
Ameritech would not compete for a license it was earlier promised, and after months of failed negotiation attempts last fall, Ameritech and France Telecom independently initiated legal action in both Polish and international courts.
Earlier this year, Ameritech and France Telecom announced they each sought several hundred million dollars from the Polish government, which includes missed income from not operating a GSM system.
Poland awarded GSM licenses in early February to two consortia, Polkomtel and Polska Telefonica Cyfrowa Sp.z o.o. Polkomtel is a partnership of AirTouch International, Tele Danmark, the Polish oil refinery Petrochemia Plock and the mining company KGHM Polska Miedz, each with 19.25 percent, and other Polish investors. Polska Telefonica is a partnership of Elektrim SA, U S West International, and other Polish businesses.