Are there any restrictions on foreign ownership of telecoms operators?

Technology (3rd edition)

Armenia Small Flag Armenia

There is no restriction on foreign ownership of network operators or service providers in the field of electronic communication services. The details is above in question 8.

Dominican Republic Small Flag Dominican Republic

The Dominican legislation only accounts to one such limitation and it is related to the ownership of broadband services which cannot be controlled by a foreign entity or individual. Except for broadcast services, there are no local ownership requirements or restrictions on foreign investment.

Law 153-98 as well as the Authorizations Regulation, stipulates that “as regards public broadcasting services…” individuals are required to be either “Dominican nationals by birth or naturalized foreigners”. The latter seeks to “maintain control on the management of the media concessionary enterprise”. Currently, there is no restriction in our legal framework that forbids or limits cross-ownership of different communication media. It is public knowledge that a few economic groups own an array of communications sources that include television channels, newspapers and radio stations.

Any transaction that involves the change of control of broadcast companies -i.e., radio, TV, cable- or the transfer of assets and frequencies are required to obtain the approval of INDOTEL. Likewise, the entity has the authority to analyse market conditions and consolidations, thus, exercising the faculty to impose specifics obligations when competitive conditions are negatively affected as a result of such transactions.

Egypt Small Flag Egypt

There are no restriction on foreign ownership for companies undertaking telecommunication or programming activities in Egypt.

Estonia Small Flag Estonia


France Small Flag France

Foreign investments in France may be subject to prior approval by the Ministry of Economy when pertaining to sectors which involve the country’s interests in terms of public order, public security or national defense. These interests are defined as including the integrity, security and operating continuity of electronic communications services and networks. Their scope was recently strengthened with regard to activities concerning technical equipment or devices for correspondence interception, remote detection of conversations, cryptology and more generally security provided by information technology products and systems.

Conversely, pursuant to the CPCE the ARCEP’s missions include laying down the conditions necessary to promote investment and innovation in improved and new generation infrastructure, taking into account the necessity to diversify investment risk “in a manner that respects competition in the market and the principle of non-discrimination”. In this respect, the ECEC purports to define more predictable rules for co-investment in order to promote risk sharing in the deployment of very high capacity networks. This may explain why the possible reinforcement of investment control regulations regarding investments by mobile telecom operators in 5G network equipment is the subject of much debate.

China Small Flag China

In general, the PRC has been gradually opening up more and more telecoms services to foreign investment. For example, under the most recently revised Negative Lists (effective 30 July 2019), there are now no longer any foreign investment restrictions applicable to call centre services in the PRC. However, there is still a complicated framework of foreign-ownership restrictions on telecoms operators (per the Catalog, the Negative Lists and other related regulations). For example, foreign stakes in BTS categories are statutorily restricted to 50% or less. The prohibitions and restrictions applicable to foreign participation in VATS sectors, in addition to being divided by categories and subcategories, are divided in terms of whether the foreign party seeking to participate in such activities is a qualified service provider established in Hong Kong or Macau, whether the investment is being made in a foreign trade zone of China or whether neither of the two preceding situations applies.

Israel Small Flag Israel

There are restrictions on foreign ownership of telecoms operators. According to regulations promulgated under the Communications Law, which set out the procedures and conditions for obtaining a general license for the provision of domestic, fixed or mobile services, or international telecommunications services, via public electronic communication networks, at least twenty percent (20%) of each of the means of control of the applicant for the license should be held directly by an Israeli citizen and a resident thereof, or by a company which is controlled by an Israeli citizen and resident therein (the 'Minimum Israeli ownership requirement').

According to the regulations with respect to narrowcasting television services, the Minimum Israeli ownership requirement is 26%.

Italy Small Flag Italy

No, save for the limitation already provided under query 2 above.

Japan Small Flag Japan

Under the Act on Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, Etc., one-third or more of the total number of the issued shares of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT Corporation) must be held by the Japanese government, and the aggregate voting rights of shares in NTT Corporation held directly or indirectly by (i) any person who does not have Japanese nationality, (ii) any foreign government or its representative or (iii) any foreign juridical person or entity (subject to the calculation method of indirectly held voting rights under the Act) may not exceed one-third of the total voting rights of the issued shares of NTT Corporation. There are also certain restrictions on foreign ownership under the Radio Act and the Broadcasting Act.

Furthermore, certain direct inward investments into Japan (e.g., acquisition of 10% or more of a listed company in Japan or any shares of an unlisted company in Japan) by foreign investors in the area of telecommunications business are subject to a prior filing requirement under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act and could be subject to order of the Japanese government to change or stop the transaction (although such order has never been reported in the area of telecommunication business in the past).

Malaysia Small Flag Malaysia

The shareholding of a licensee must comply with relevant Malaysian foreign investment restrictions. Foreign equity restrictions are commonly imposed as licence conditions in practice and such restrictions apply to all licences issued under the CMA, except for Applications Service Provider licences, which can be 100% foreign-owned.

Malta Small Flag Malta

There are no restrictions on foreign companies commencing operations in the Maltese telecoms market and in fact all of the three larger telecoms players in Malta have material or controlling foreign interests.

New Zealand Small Flag New Zealand

While there are no foreign ownership restrictions specific to the telecommunications sector, the Overseas Investment regime may restrict the ability of foreign persons to control telecommunications network operators. Overseas persons wishing to invest in significant business assets or sensitive land in New Zealand may have to obtain consent from the Overseas Investment Office to do so.

Germany Small Flag Germany

See above.

Indonesia Small Flag Indonesia

There are foreign ownership restrictions for certain lines of business in telecommunication sector. Pursuant to Presidential Regulation No. 44 of 2016 on Negative List of Investment, the following lines of business is subject to maximum 67% foreign ownership restriction:

a. Fixed-line telecommunication network provider;
b. Mobile telecommunication network provider;
c. Integrated telecommunication service and network provider;
d. Call centre and other telephony added-value service;
e. Telecommunication content service provider;
f. Internet service provider;
g. Data communication system;
h. Internet telephony service for public; and
i. Network access point/interconnected internet and other multimedia services.

Pakistan Small Flag Pakistan

Please refer to our response to item 2 above.

Romania Small Flag Romania

Under the Romanian legislation there are no foreign ownership restrictions with regard to telecom operators. As a matter of principle, foreign entities that provide telecom services in Romania need to follow the same authorization procedures as Romanian entities.

South Korea Small Flag South Korea

Yes. A foreign government or a foreign corporation may not own more than 49% of voting shares of a basic telecommunications service provider that provides various basic telecommunications services by establishing and operating its own telecommunications networks (“Facilities-based Telecommunications Service Provider”). In this connection, the 49% foreign ownership limit will count all of the voting shares owned by all of the foreign shareholders of the subject Facilities-based Telecommunications Service Provider.

In addition, for the purposes of administering the 49% foreign ownership restriction, if a Korean company’s largest shareholder is a foreign corporation or foreign government, and the foreign corporation or foreign government holds 15% or more of the total voting shares of the Korean company, the Korean company is deemed to be a foreign corporation.

However, with respect to the foreign companies from those countries that have entered into a Free Trade Agreement with Korea (e.g., the United States and the EU (and its member states)), these companies may own more than 49% of voting shares of a Facilities-based Telecommunications Service Provider through their subsidiaries in Korea (provided this permissible indirect ownership rule may not apply to KT or SK Telecom).

Spain Small Flag Spain

Please see Question 2.

Sweden Small Flag Sweden

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of telecom operators.

Taiwan Small Flag Taiwan

Yes, either under TA or TMA, the telecommunications operators owning and operating telecommunications facilities and networks for public telecommunications (such as those operating fixed-networks or mobile networks) will be subject to foreign ownership restrictions. The direct foreign ownership of such an operator shall not exceed 49% of the total outstanding shares and the total of the direct and indirect foreign ownership in it shall not exceed 60% of its total outstanding shares.

Turkey Small Flag Turkey

There are no foreign ownership restrictions with respect to authorization to provide telecoms services. However, the company applying to ICTA for authorization must be founded under Turkish laws.

United Kingdom Small Flag United Kingdom

Potentially, Ofcom does have the right to, amongst other things, revoke licences for the installation and use of wireless telegraphy equipment where necessary in the interests of national security. This could, theoretically, be used to restrict foreign ownership of certain telecoms operators, although this right is unlikely to be invoked.

United States Small Flag United States

When a corporation is directly or indirectly controlled by another corporation, the FCC traditionally reserved the right to refuse to approve a licence if more than a 25% interest in the controlling company is foreign and if the Commission finds it in the public interest to do so. In 2013, the FCC announced a policy change that it would review foreign ownership above 25% on a case-by-case basis. There are additional restrictions on the nationality of management that apply in the case telephone companies having a common carrier radio licence. No license has been denied on the basis of foreign investment. Wireline common carriers are not subject to these restrictions.

The FCC may deny certain radio licenses to parent corporations with greater than 25% foreign investment only if the public interest is served by this refusal. When a foreign-organized company files an application with the FCC to provide US international telecommunications services, or to acquire control of an existing provider of US domestic or international telecommunications services, the FCC seeks the advice of US Executive Branch agencies with respect to national security, law enforcement, and foreign policy and trade policy concerns. In addition, the Telecommunications Communications Act of 1996 does not allow the FCC to grant a radio license to a foreign government. It also does not allow the FCC to grant a common carrier (or broadcast, aeronautical fixed, or aeronautical en route) radio license to a foreign individual or corporation, or to a US corporation of which more than 20% of the stock is owned or voted by foreign individuals, corporations or governments. However, where an applicant for a common carrier radio license has a controlling US parent with greater than 25% foreign investment, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows the FCC to deny the license only if the public interest is served by this refusal.

Australia Small Flag Australia

See the answer to the question above.

Updated: August 5, 2019