Our 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.

The following section describes the regulatory frameworks and the key regulatory developments at the global and regional level and in selected countries in which we have 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, we are unable to attach a specific level of financial risk to our performance from such matters.

European Union (‘EU’)

The European Commission (the ‘Commission’) has begun to consult on the future scope and nature of universal service provision in the EU. Current obligations generally involve the provision of a fixed connection allowing access to voice and simple data services. In some countries those operators responsible for providing universal services receive compensation from a fund to which we and others are required to make a financial contribution. The Commission has indicated that it would be reluctant to extend the scope of these funds to include very high speed broadband deployment and that additional financing for such projects should instead be sought from general taxation. The Commission has also published a broadband strategy which proposes that the European Investment Bank offer support for broadband infrastructure projects which fulfil certain criteria.


The current roaming regulation (the ‘roaming regulation’) entered into force in July 2009 and requires mobile operators to supply voice and text roaming services under retail price caps. Wholesale price caps also apply to voice, text and data roaming services. Caps are adjusted (reduced) annually. The regulation expires in 2012 and the Commission is currently undertaking a review to determine what should happen thereafter. The Commission expects to publish formal proposals for the new roaming regulations during the summer of 2011. These will then be considered by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers (the ‘Council’). In the meantime, the Commission has indicated that there is widespread support for the continuation of some form of regulation beyond 2012 and that this may extend to retail data services which are currently excluded from regulation. The Commission has consulted on a variety of options for regulation including a continuation of existing price caps, closer alignment of roaming prices to domestic prices, or the implementation of various ‘structural’ solutions, such as the decoupling of roaming services from domestic services, all of which would be intended to increase competition in either the retail or the wholesale roaming markets.

Call termination

In June 2010 the body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (‘BEREC’) concluded that a move to ‘bill and keep’, in which no termination rates are payable between operators was “more promising (than existing call termination arrangements) in the long-term”. In the meantime, national regulators are required to take utmost account of the Commission’s existing recommendation on the regulation of fixed and mobile termination rates published in 2009.

At 31 March 2011 the termination rates effective for our subsidiaries and joint ventures within the EU, which differs from our Europe region, ranged from 3.00 eurocents per minute (2.64 pence) to 7.38 eurocents per minute (6.49 pence), at the relevant 31 March 2011 exchange rate.

Fixed network regulation

In September 2010 the Commission published a recommendation on the regulation of fibre ‘next generation’ broadband access networks (the ‘NGA recommendation’), of which national regulators are required to take utmost account. The Commission recommends that national regulators ensure operators that have significant market power make unbundled access to fibre networks available to competitors on a cost-oriented basis which reflects the risk profile of the investment.


In July 2009 the Council adopted the amended GSM directive allowing the use of the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz GSM bands for universal mobile telecommunications service (‘UMTS’) technology (‘refarming’) and, in the future, other technologies. Member states were required to implement this by May 2010, subject to the undertaking of a competition review by the national regulator.

In September 2010 the Commission published a proposed radio spectrum policy programme (‘RSPP’) for consideration by the European Parliament and Council. The RSPP proposes that all member states release 800 MHz spectrum for mobile broadband services by 1 January 2013 unless the Commission agrees otherwise. It also provides guidance to national regulators to ensure that competition is safeguarded when rights of use for existing spectrum are changed (e.g. through refarming) or when new spectrum is assigned. Various amendments to the draft RSPP have been proposed by the European Parliament and Council.

Back to top

Europe region


Our current termination rate was reduced in December 2010 to 3.36 eurocents per minute, effective until 30 November 2012.

The rates that access seekers have to pay in order to unbundle Deutsche Telekom’s VDSL network were set by the national regulator in March 2010. We have appealed against these rates. The national regulator obliged Deutsche Telekom to grant access to its projected fibre to the home access network at ex post regulated rates in March 2011.

In May 2010 we acquired nationwide 15 year licences for 2x10 MHz of 800 MHz spectrum, 2x5 MHz of 2.1 GHz spectrum, 2x20 MHz of 2.6 GHz spectrum and 25 MHz of 2.6 GHz unpaired spectrum for a cost of €1.4 billion (£1.2 billion).


In July 2008 the national regulator reduced our termination rate to 8.85 eurocents per minute, in July 2009 to 7.70 eurocents per minute and in July 2010 to 6.60 eurocents per minute. Termination rates will reduce to 5.30 eurocents per minute in July 2011. The national regulator is currently consulting upon further reductions to 4.1 cents in January 2012 with further reductions to 0.98 cents by January 2015.

In November 2010 the Government entered into a memorandum of understanding with telecommunications operators, including Vodafone, to jointly develop a plan for the deployment of next generation fixed infrastructure in Italy.

In December 2010 the Italian regulator increased the monthly cost of an unbundled copper local loop from €8.49 (which had applied until 1 May 2010) to €8.70 for the period 1 May to 31 December 2010, to €9.02 for 2011 and to €9.28 for 2012, subject to Telecom Italia’s network meeting certain quality thresholds. In February 2011 the national regulator approved the price increases for the 2011 wholesale products charge.

In January 2011 the national regulator launched a consultation on the obligations to be imposed on Telecom Italia in relation to its fibre network. These proposals vary significantly from the principles in the NGA recommendation described above as they do not require unbundled access where there are or could be two competing networks. We have objected to these proposals.


The national regulator has adopted a glide path of termination rate reductions to 4.00 from October 2011 to April 2012.

The national regulator has adopted an immediate 7% increase in the price at which we and other operators obtain unbundled copper local loops from Telefonica while it undertakes further analysis of these costs.

The national regulator has determined the net cost and industry contributions corresponding to universal service contributions for 2007. Vodafone is required to contribute €14.9 million. We are currently appealing this decision.

In June 2010 the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce issued a wideranging consultation on spectrum. In February 2011 the Government confirmed its plans under which operators (including Vodafone) will return small amounts of their existing 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum, the remaining licences would be extended until 2030 and refarming would be allowed in these bands. A tender process for the 2.6 GHz and 800 MHz bands will also be undertaken in the 2011 calendar year, with the 800 MHz spectrum available for use from around 2015.

The national competition authority has commenced an investigation into the wholesale origination and termination charges levied by all Spanish mobile operators for SMS services.

United Kingdom

Our regulated average termination rate is currently 2.98 pence per minute. The national regulator has finalised the process to decide the rates that will apply from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2015. It has imposed a glidepath with annual adjustments that would see a reduction to 0.69 pence per minute (plus inflation adjustment) in 2014 and 2015. The mobile network operators have until 16 May 2011 to appeal this decision.

All 2G licences have been modified to allow refarming to 3G. All 3G licences will also be made indefinite rather than expiring in 2021.

The national regulator will carry out a competition assessment and consultation process to what restrictions, if any, might be applied to participation in the auction of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum, which is expected to be conducted in early 2012.

As part of the conditions for clearance of the merger between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK, the Commission has required them to dispose of 2x15 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band. If they fail to do so, this spectrum will be included in the auction.

Other Europe


Vodafone Albania acquired the single 3G licence (2x15 MHz) for €31.4m in November 2010. Commercial services were launched in January 2011.


The national regulator is currently consulting on the renewal/re-auction of existing 900 MHz licences expiring in 2012.


In October 2010 the Hungarian Parliament adopted a law which imposes a significant additional tax burden on the telecommunications, retail and energy sectors. The law came into force in December 2010 and will apply until at least January 2013, although the Hungarian government has indicated that it may be further extended. Vodafone prepaid 7,343,503,000 HUF (£24 million)in December 2010. A large number of firms have asked the Commission to review the legality of the tax, which they are currently doing.


The national regulator has proposed auctioning all spectrum in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands at the same time as an auction of 800 MHz spectrum in 2011, with spectrum available in 2013. In the meantime, Vodafone’s and O2’s 900 MHz licences will be renewed until the commencement of the new licences in 2013.


The national regulator has concluded a process for the renewal/issue of all 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum which allows Vodafone to retain all but five MHz of its 900 and 1800 MHz spectrum for 15 years. Vodafone has also secured an additional 20 MHz of 1800 MHz spectrum.


Our termination rate reduced to 4.20 eurocents per minute in January 2011 following a cost model analysis by the NRA which proposes reducing to 1.2 eurocents per minute by September 2012. This decision is currently under appeal.

Auctions of 2.6 GHz spectrum concluded in April 2010. Vodafone acquired 2x10 MHz of 2.6 GHz of spectrum for the reserve price of €200,000.

In February 2011 the Government announced plans to auction 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum in early 2012. It proposes to reserve two 800 MHz licences for new entrants.


The national regulator has adopted a glide path of termination rate reductions from May 2010 to take the rate from 6.50 eurocents per minute to 3.50 eurocents per minute by August 2011. The national regulator is currently consulting on a cost modelling process to determine rates beyond August 2011.

The spectrum auction in Portugal was delayed and is now expected in 2011 and will include a number of spectrum bands including 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.

The competition authority has started an investigation into certain retail pricing initiatives undertaken by Vodafone in early 2011.


Proposals for the renewal of Vodafone’s 900/1800 MHz licences, which expire in December 2011, are expected shortly.

In February 2011 Vodafone was fined €28 million by the competition authority in relation to an alleged refusal to interconnect with another party in 2006. We appealed this decision in April 2011. Other enquiries remain ongoing. In April 2011 we were advised that new proceedings in relation to termination rates and subsidies for handsets will be initiated.


Our termination rates are currently set at 0.032 Lira per minute.

Back to top

Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific region


The national regulator’s decision to reduce interconnection charges to Rs 0.20 per minute effective 1 April 2010 was successfully appealed to the appellate body. The national regulator launched a new interconnect charges consultation process in April 2011 and has been directed by the appellate body to implement new rates by June 2011.

In May 2010 we secured 20 year licences for 2x5 MHz of 3G spectrum in nine circles in the Indian auction for a total price of INR 116.2 billion (£1.7 billion). These circles include Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and a further three ‘A’ circles and three ‘B’ circles providing a footprint covering 66% of VEL’s current revenue base. In May 2010 the national regulator made recommendations on the spectrum management and licensing framework which includes far-reaching proposals for spectrum allocation and pricing. In February 2011 the national regulator recommended a new spectrum valuation approach for 1800 MHz spectrum. These recommendations will be reviewed by the Union Minister of Communications and IT.

In September 2010 VEL’s appeal against the increase in 2G spectrum fees of 1% to 2% of adjusted gross revenue (effective from 1 April 2010) was unsuccessful. VEL then appealed to the Supreme Court in October 2010 and was granted a stay against the order increasing spectrum charges.

South Africa

The national regulator may recommence the process for an auction of the 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands during the 2012 financial year.

In October 2010 the national regulator published a regulation establishing a glide path for mobile and fixed termination rates over the period to March 2014. The mobile termination rate will decline from a peak/off-peak rate of ZAR 0.89/0.77 respectively to ZAR 0.40 per minute from 1 March 2013.

Other Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific


The national regulator set termination rates at 65% of each operator’s on-net retail revenue per minute in September 2008. Mobinil obtained interim relief against this regulation and a final order is awaited to clarify its application. On 28 January 2011, during a period of socio-political unrest and demonstrations, the government ordered Vodafone and the two other licensed mobile operators to temporarily suspend mobile services in certain areas. Vodafone subsequently restored its voice network to its customers the following day, and data and SMS were unavailable for five and nine days respectively.

New Zealand

Vodafone and Telecom New Zealand have been selected to share a NZ$285 million government grant to roll-out and operate an open access fibre and wireless network in rural areas.

The national regulator has adopted a regulation which reduces termination rates from around 18 cents to 7.5 cents in May 2011, with further reductions to 4.0 cents from April 2012. SMS termination rates are also regulated at 0.06 cents per SMS. The national regulator has indicated that it will monitor the impact of these measures and of on-net/off-net retail pricing which it believes to have inhibited competition.


The price floor on retail services imposed in November 2009 on Vodafone by the national regulator was removed in April 2010. In July 2010 the national regulator ruled that QTel had launched the Virgin Mobile service illegally and required significant changes to be compliant. The national regulator has launched a strategic review of the sector.

Back to top


The table below summarises the most significant mobile licences held by our operating subsidiaries and our joint venture in Italy at 31 March 2011. We present the licences by frequency band since in many markets, including the majority of Europe, they can be used for a variety of technologies including 2G, 3G and in the future LTE.

Mobile licences

Country by region 800 MHz expiry date 900 MHz expiry date 1800 MHz expiry date 2.1 GHz expiry date 2.6 GHz expiry date
Germany December 2025 December 2016 December 2016 December 2020 December 2025
Italy n/a February 2015 February 2015 December 2021 n/a
Spain n/a February 2020 July 2023 April 2020 n/a
UK n/a See note(1) See note(1) December 2021 n/a
Albania n/a June 2016 June 2016 December 2025 n/a
Czech Republic n/a January 2021 January 2021 February 2025 n/a
Greece n/a September 2012(2) August 2016 August 2021 n/a
Hungary n/a July 2014(3) July 2014(3) December 2019(3) n/a
Ireland n/a May 2011 December 2015 October 2022 n/a
Malta n/a May 2011 May 2011 August 2020 n/a
Netherlands n/a March 2013 March 2013 December 2016 May 2030
Portugal n/a October 2021 October 2021 January 2016 n/a
Romania n/a December 2011 December 2011 March 2020 n/a
Turkey n/a April 2023 April 2029 n/a
Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific        
India(4) n/a November 2014 –December 2026 November 2014 –December 2026 September 2030 n/a
Vodacom: South Africa n/a See note(5) See note(5) See note(5) n/a
Egypt n/a January 2022 January 2022 January 2022 n/a
Ghana n/a December 2019 December 2019 December 2023(6) n/a
New Zealand n/a November 2031 March 2021 March 2021 n/a
Qatar n/a June 2028 June 2028 June 2028 n/a
  1. Notes:
  2. Indefinite licence with a one year notice of revocation.
  3. One third of the 900 MHz spectrum will expire in 2016.
  4. Options to extend these licences.
  5. India is comprised of 23 separate service area licences with a variety of expiry dates. Option to extend 900/1800 licences by ten years. Vodafone acquired 3G licences in nine of the service areas in May 2010.
  6. Vodacom’s South African 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 20 year duration and will expire in 2028. Vodacom also holds licences to provide 2G and/or 3G services in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania.
  7. The NRA has issued provisional licences with the intention of converting these to full licences once the NRA board has been reconvened.
Back to top

Share this