Estonian operators decry 5G licensing plan

Estonian operators decry 5G licensing plan

Estonian mobile operators have called for the country’s Minister of Foreign Trade and IT to revise its licensing strategy for spectrum in the 3.4GHz - 3.8GHz range.

Minister Raul Siem recently agreed to award four licences in this band after wireless ISP Levikom took legal action, arguing that the original plan of issuing three licences provided an unfair advantage to the incumbent operators that would stymie competition.

Estonia’s competition watchdog upheld Levikom’s complaint, prompting a rethink of the ministry’s strategy. However, the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL) has now argued that creating four equal lots from the available spectrum will mean that each individual allocation will only be suitable for 4G services rather than full 5G networks.

There are also issues of cross-border interference to consider, as Estonia’s neighbour Russia currently runs military communications over the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz range. While it is looking to migrate these to alternative frequencies, Russia’s use of the 700MHz band for TV broadcasting is also preventing Estonia from auctioning this frequency for 5G.

Estonian operator Tele2 Eesti has called for the country’s government to use the available spectrum resources to create a single nationwide 5G network through which providers could offer services on a wholesale basis via an open access business model.

Writing to the minister, the operator’s CEO Chris Alan Robbins claimed: "This would be a real motor for innovation for Estonia, not a closed infrastructure model like we have right now, where all wireless access is controlled by three operators.”