Skip to main content


The Group’s operating companies are generally subject to regulation governing the operation of their business activities. Such regulation typically takes the form of industry specific law and regulation covering telecommunications services and general competition (antitrust) law applicable to all activities. Some regulation implements commitments made by governments under the Basic Telecommunications Accord of the World Trade Organisation to facilitate market entry and establish regulatory frameworks.

The following section describes the regulatory framework and the key regulatory developments at the global and regional level and in selected countries in which the Group has significant interests. Many of the regulatory developments reported in the following section involve ongoing proceedings or consideration of potential proceedings that have not reached a conclusion. Accordingly, the Group is unable to attach a specific level of financial risk to the Group’s performance from such matters.

European Union

In November 2007, the Commission published proposals to amend the EU framework (‘the review’). Any changes to the EU framework would become effective following their transposition into national law from around 2010. Not all of these affect Vodafone directly. The proposals that may directly affect Vodafone include:

  • the creation of a new European advisory body;
  • amendments intended to facilitate investment in next generation fixed infrastructure;
  • the addition of functional separation as a remedy subject to certain conditions being fulfilled;
  • changes to the licensing of spectrum, introducing more flexibility, trading and market-based approaches;
  • some ‘net neutrality’ provisions to address the concerns that the services of some internet service providers will be blocked or otherwise discriminated against by network operators;
  • proposals that number portability be completed in one day on all networks in the EU;
  • various measures to address concerns about network security; and
  • various measures to address the provision of services for the disabled.

The proposed changes have been voted on by the European Parliament and the Council of Member States (the ‘Council’) must decide whether to accept the Parliament’s amendments. This process is expected to conclude in June 2009 if the Council accepts. If not, the proposals will proceed to a third reading. The impact of the review on Vodafone will depend on the changes actually adopted by the EU, the manner in which revised directives are subsequently implemented in member states and how the revised regulatory framework is then applied by the respective national regulatory authorities (‘NRAs’) and the European Commission (the ‘Commission’).

The European Commission’s Competition Directorate has commenced an investigation into the provision of voice over internet protocol (‘VOIP’), with a preliminary investigation into the provision of access to VOIP and other internet services over mobile networks. This investigation is at an early stage with the Commission gathering information from interested parties.

International roaming

In April 2009, the European Parliament voted in favour of a revised regulation (the ‘roaming regulation’) under Article 95 of the EU Treaty amending and extending the requirements on mobile operators to supply voice roaming by means of a euro-tariff (from which customers may opt out) under which the cost of making and receiving calls within the EU is capped. New caps for making calls are proposed at 39 eurocents and 35 eurocents and new caps for the costs of receiving calls of 15 eurocents and 11 eurocents effective July 2010 and July 2011, respectively. The revised regulation requires roaming voice charges to be levied in per second units, although operators may establish certain initial charges for making calls.

The roaming regulations also regulates roaming text messages and data roaming with proposals including a retail cap of 11 eurocents and a wholesale cap of 4 eurocents on roaming text messages. An average wholesale price cap for data roaming services of 100 eurocents per megabyte is proposed. This price cap reduces to 80 eurocents in July 2010 and to 50 eurocents in July 2011. In addition, the regulation sets out a number of transparency measures to be implemented. The proposals require agreement of the Council to become law and are likely to enter into force in July 2009.

Call termination

At 31 March 2009, the termination rates effective for the Group’s subsidiaries and joint ventures within the EU, which differs from the Group’s Europe region, ranged from 4.7 eurocents (4.3 pence) to 9.7 eurocents (9.0 pence), at the relevant 31 March 2009 exchange rate.

In May 2009, the Commission adopted a recommendation aimed at achieving further convergence of termination rates in Europe, including principles on which cost elements should be taken into account when NRAs determine termination rates and to ensure that termination rates are implemented at a “cost efficient, symmetric level” by 31 December 2012 or in certain cases by July 2014. NRAs are required to take utmost account of the Commission’s recommendations, but may depart from them in justified circumstances.

Fixed network regulation

In September 2008, the Commission consulted upon proposals for a recommendation on the future regulation of fibre networks. Plans to construct such networks have been announced by the incumbent fixed line operators in the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain and are already well developed in France and Germany.


In February 2007, the Commission published a communication on its plans to introduce greater flexibility in the use of spectrum in selected bands, including 2G and 3G bands, through the use of decisions agreed with the Radio Spectrum Committee (an EU level committee comprising the Commission and member states). The first proposed measure is a replacement of the GSM Directive by a decision to allow the deployment of UMTS services using 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum (‘refarming’). The Commission submitted formal proposals for such a decision to the European Parliament in July 2007.

In November 2007, the European Commission made a policy announcement on the 800 MHz ‘digital dividend’ spectrum (to be released following the transition from analogue to digital TV). It urged Europe, and the member states in particular, to identify new harmonised bands of spectrum for mobile broadband services and mobile TV.



The NRA published proposals to auction further 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.6 GHz and UHF spectrum, with auctions expected in late 2009 or early 2010.

The NRA reduced termination rates from 7.92 eurocents to 6.59 eurocents applicable from 1 April 2009 until 30 November 2010.


The NRA has issued a decision on reassigning 900 MHz spectrum and 2.1 GHz spectrum and on the implementation of 900 MHz refarming. The Italian Government has now published a notice with a call for tender and auction for certain frequencies. The four existing network operators have submitted expressions of interest. The offer starting price has been set at €495.8 million, but in the case of no bidders, the starting price will be reduced to €88.7 million.

The Italian NRA has approved Telecom Italia’s proposed voluntary undertakings on fixed network access. Vodafone currently purchases certain services from Telecom Italia in order to provide fixed broadband services in the Italian market.

In July 2008, the NRA reduced Vodafone’s termination rate by 11% to 8.85 eurocents, with the NRA foreseeing further reductions to 7.70 eurocents in July 2009, 6.60 eurocents in July 2010, 5.30 eurocents in July 2011 and 4.50 eurocents in July 2012.


The Ministry has announced that Vodafone has met its coverage commitments under the 3G licence. The National Communication Authority (‘NCA’) issued a statement of objections in the procedure opened for an alleged anti-competitive practice in January 2007, concerning alleged concerted practice by Vodafone and others to establish the same call set up charges. It has proposed a finding that Vodafone was not liable for any breach.

The NRA adopted a decision on universal service contributions for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005. In its decision for 2006, it declared an amount of €75.3 million payable by the industry. Vodafone will be liable for a proportion of this amount.

Vodafone reduced its termination rate to 7.87 eurocents in October 2008 and to 7.00 eurocents in April 2009.

United Kingdom

An auction of 2.6 GHz spectrum is expected to commence during 2009. The NRA also proposes to auction 72 MHz of digital dividend spectrum suitable for mobile communications in the 790-862 MHz range during the 2010 calendar year. The NRA published proposals to allow refarming of 900 MHz spectrum, but proposed that Vodafone and O2 first release 2 x 2.5 MHz each for reallocation to other parties.

Vodafone UK filed an appeal against the proposals of the NRA to reform the number portability processes and reduce porting times to two hours. The appeal was successful.

Vodafone’s regulated average termination rate from April 2008 to March 2009 was 5.75 pence. The rate will decline to 4.72 pence for the year commencing April 2009 following appeals by BT and H3G to the competition appeals tribunal.

The UK Government has specified a wireless radio spectrum modernisation programme under its digital Britain project. Elements of the project include resolving the future of existing 2G radio spectrum and commitments by mobile operators to extend the coverage of mobile broadband. The UK Government is expected to publish further details of its proposals over the summer of 2009.

Other Europe


Vodafone Greece and other mobile operators have encountered difficulties in obtaining authorisations to install and maintain base stations and antennae. Operators have proposed amendments to the relevant law and have requested that the Government extend the deadline for obtaining such approvals. In May, the Government set a new deadline of March 2010. Vodafone Greece is negotiating a co-location agreement to site base stations on the premises of OTE, following a regulatory decision in February 2009 mandating co-location.

Vodafone Greece continues to appeal findings and sanctions arising from the 2007 interception incident. A number of civil lawsuits are also pending in the Greek courts.

In January 2009, the termination rate reduced by 20.7% to 7.86 eurocents.


Vodafone Ireland will reduce its termination rates to 7.80 eurocents from 1 April 2010 and reductions to 7.00 eurocents from 1 April 2011, and then to 5.00 eurocents from 1 April 2012 until April 2013 are expected.


The NRA acknowledged Vodafone’s compliance with 3G coverage obligations. Auctions of 2.6 GHz spectrum are expected in early 2010.

An appeal by one stakeholder against the NRA’s decision setting call termination rates was successful. As a result, the termination rate remained at 9.90 eurocents. A final court decision is expected in May 2009. Unless the court decides otherwise, Vodafone’s rate is expected to be reduced in July 2009 to 7.00 eurocents.


The NRA is expected to auction 2.6 GHz spectrum in 2009.

Africa and Central Europe

South Africa

In January 2009, the NRA published, under the Electronic Communication Act, Act 36 of 2005, a notice indicating that it is issuing converted licences to close the licence conversion process, which commenced in 2006. Vodacom’s mobile cellular telecommunications licence, which was issued under the now repealed Telecommunications Act, Act 103 of 1996, has been transformed into two distinct licences: an individual electronic communications network service (‘I-ECNS’) licence and an individual electronic communications service (‘I-ECS’) licence.

All formerly value added network services providers have been issued with I-ECS and I-ECNS licences similar to those issued to existing operators. The NRA gazetted a further document setting out a process through which it will determine Standard Terms and Conditions Regulations, licence fees, spectrum fees and universal service obligations.

Other Africa and Central Europe


In September 2008, the Government issued a sixth mobile licence. Mobile number portability was implemented in October 2008.


The Government undertook an auction of four 2.1 GHz licences in November 2008. Each of the three existing operators obtained licences. Concession agreements were awarded to the successful bidders in April 2009. The fourth licence was not awarded.

The NRA adopted rules in April 2009, which require Turkcell to ensure that on-net tariffs do not fall below a level determined by reference to the prevailing mobile termination rate. Mobile number portability was implemented in November 2008.


In November 2008, the NRA ruled on interconnection charges, setting a migration path to a single rate for termination on all fixed and mobile networks by 2010. In December 2008, the NRA awarded Ghana Telecommunications one of five national 3G licences. The licences have been issued as provisional authorisations, pending conversion to formal licences once the NRA board has been reconvened by the new Government, which came into power in January 2009.

Asia Pacific and Middle East


The NRA announced the elimination of access deficit charges payable by private service providers to BSNL, effective 1 April 2008. The TRAI announced a new interconnection usage charge regime effective 1 April 2009 whereby, the termination rate for all types of domestic calls were reduced to 20 paise per minute. Vodafone Essar and a number of operators and industry bodies have appealed this decision to the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal. The TRAI released recommendations enabling the introduction of mobile virtual network operators in the Indian telecommunications network. The Department of Telecommunications is reviewing these regulations. The anticipated auctions of 3G and broadband wireless access spectrum were deferred by the Department of Telecommunications. In February 2009, the Department of Telecommunications initiated a tender process for the introduction of mobile number portability services.

Other Asia Pacific and Middle East


The Australian NRA has determined that it considers a rate of nine cents to be appropriate for mobile call termination during the period until 30 December 2011, in the event that individual parties are unable to agree terms. The Australian Government has announced that it intends to underwrite the roll out of a national broadband network, which will provide wholesale fibre access to third parties. The Government is also undertaking a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework, including consideration of the existing arrangements for the regulation of services such as call termination, universal service arrangements (to which Vodafone currently contributes) and consumer measures.


Vodafone Egypt and Mobinil provide Etisalat with national roaming services under terms agreed in conjunction with the Egyptian Government. Mobile number portability between Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil and Etisalat was introduced in April 2008. Proposals for the award of a second fixed licence during 2008 were withdrawn by the Government.

Vodafone Egypt will be required to pay 0.5% of its revenue into a universal service fund from April 2009. The NTRA has issued a request for information for the provision and operation of basic telecommunications services to unserved, low income areas in five regions as a preliminary step towards a universal service tender.

New Zealand

The New Zealand NRA has initiated an investigation into mobile and SMS termination rates and proposes an immediate reduction from 15.00 cents to 7.00 cents for voice and 9.50 cents to 1.00 cent for SMS. Vodafone has submitted alternative undertakings and the NRA will consult further before making final recommendations to the Minister by the end of 2009. The New Zealand Government has invited comments upon and expressions of interest in a proposal to establish local fibre companies to construct and wholesale broadband fibre facilities. Vodafone has expressed an interest in participating.


In September 2008, Vodafone and the Qatar Foundation Consortium were announced by ictQATAR as the winning applicant of the second fixed network and services licence. In February 2009, the regulator, ictQATAR, extended the date of Vodafone Qatar’s mobile licence coverage requirement of 98% population coverage from 1 March 2009 to 1 September 2009 and imposed a voice and SMS commercial service launch requirement by 1 July 2009.

In accordance with its mobile licence requirement, Vodafone Qatar completed a public offering of 40% of its shareholding on the Doha Securities Market for Qatari nationals and approved Qatari institutions on 10 May 2009.


The table below summarises the most significant mobile licences held by the Group’s operating subsidiaries and the Group’s joint ventures in Italy and Vodacom in South Africa at 31 March 2009.

Mobile licences

Country by region 2G licence expiry date 3G licence expiry date
Germany December 2016 December 2020
Italy February 2015 December 2021
Spain July 2023(1) April 2020
UK See note 2 December 2021
Albania June 2016 None issued
Greece August 2016(3) August 2021
Ireland May 2011(4) October 2022
Malta(5) September 2010 August 2020
Netherlands March 2013 December 2016
Portugal October 2021 January 2016
Africa and Central Europe    
Vodacom: South Africa Annual(6) Annual(6)
Romania December 2011 March 2020
Turkey(7) April 2023 April 2029
Czech Republic January 2021 February 2025
Ghana December 2019 December 2023(8)
Hungary July 2014(9) December 2019(10)
Asia Pacific and Middle East    
India(11) November 2014 –
December 2026
None issued
Egypt January 2022 January 2022
Australia See note 12 October 2017
New Zealand See note 13 March 2021(13)
Qatar(14) June 2028 June 2028


Date relates to 1800 MHz spectrum licence. Spain also has a separate 900 MHz spectrum licence, which expires in February 2020.
Indefinite licence with a one year notice of revocation.
The licence granted in 1992 (900 MHz spectrum) will expire in September 2012. The licence granted in 2001 (900 and 1800 MHz spectrum) will expire in August 2016.
Date refers to 900 MHz licence. Ireland also has a separate 1800 MHz spectrum licence which expires in December 2015.
Malta also holds a WiMAX licence, granted in October 2005, which expires in October 2020.
Vodacom’s spectrum licences are renewed annually. As part of the migration to a new licensing regime, the NRA has issued Vodacom a service licence and a network licence, which will permit Vodacom to offer mobile and fixed services. The service and network licences have a 20 year duration and will expire in 2028.
Turkey successfully bid to acquire a 3G licence in November 2008. The concession agreement was signed in April 2009 and the licence will have a 20 year life from that date.
The NRA has issued provisional licences with the intention of converting these to full licences once the NRA board has been reconvened.
There is an option to extend this licence for seven years.
There is an option to extend this licence.
India is comprised of 23 service areas with a variety of expiry dates. There is an option to extend these licences by ten years.
Australia holds a 900 MHz spectrum licence. This is a rolling five year licence, which expires in June 2012. Vodafone Australia also holds two 1800 MHz spectrum licences. One of these licences expires in June 2013 and the other in March 2015. All licences can be used for 2G and 3G at Vodafone’s discretion.
New Zealand owns two 900 MHz licences, which expire in November 2011 and in June 2012. These licences are expected to be renewed until November 2031. Additionally, Vodafone New Zealand owns a 1800 MHz spectrum licence and a 2100 MHz licence, which expire in March 2021. All licences can be used for 2G and 3G at Vodafone’s discretion.
In December 2007, a consortium including Vodafone was named as the successful applicant in the auction for a mobile licence in Qatar, with the licence awarded in June 2008. Services were launched under the Vodafone brand on 1 March 2009.