In a statement released earlier in the week, the regulator argues that the designation should be made for an interim period of one year, extendable by a further year, and that the base price in the case of the telephone service should be €50,000 for the first year of the contract, against €1.9 million per year.

If the term is extended, and if the number of calls made during the first year of the contract is no more than 20, the amount of financing will be reduced to half the amount in the first year.

In the provision of public phones, the recommended base price is €52,500 for the period of the one-year contract (against the current cost of €2.5 million, for a total 8,222 phones nationwide) to ensure the availability of 175 public phones in a range of 175 predominantly rural parishes and in all the islands of the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira.

The Anacom statement comes after it, in May, recommended to the government that it not proceed to designate providers for the various components of universal electronic communications service, including fixed telephony, public phones and phone lists – services currently provided by Nos and Meo. It cited the fact that in the five-year period of the current contracts, the universal service had cost almost €24 million euros - financed through the Compensation Fund, to which sector operators contribute, and which ends up being indirectly paid for by all users.

That change, however, requires changes to the Electronic Communications Act currently in force. As the law has not yet been amended and given that the current contracts relating to universal public and landline services end soon, the government asked the regulator to start the designation process by launching a public consultation, which ended on 7 March.

It received submissions from 15 entities, including a number of parish councils, which argued that improving mobile network coverage and broadband internet access should be a priority.