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Three EU states embrace UMTS900

Finland, France and Portugal are expected to lead the way in rolling out UMTS900, according to telecoms.com’s parent Informa Telecoms & Media.

On January 1, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) cleared the path for the roll out of UMTS900 in its 47 member states.

The authority has adopted a decision to allow deployment of UMTS in the spectrum bands formerly reserved for GSM. Because of its lower frequency, UMTS900 would be able to provide between two and four times more coverage than the most commonly used 2GHz band as well as increased indoor coverage.

All that now remains is for the member states to implement the decision into their national radio frequency plans, a process that has already begun in Finland and Portugal.

As expected, there has been resistance regarding in-band migration to WCDMA at 900MHz, mostly from WCDMA-only operators which do not have licences for spectrum in this band, as well as from GSM players who operate only in the 1800MHz band. The latter is a situation likely to lead to greater regulatory sensitivity in certain Western European countries such as the UK, Italy, Sweden and Denmark.

In its Insight report “UMTS900: Exploring the roadmap for in-band migration in Europe”, Informa notes that Finnish operator Elisa has already made a data call over its commercial network in November 2006, in collaboration with Nokia and Option Wireless.

It looks likely to begin sharing site infrastructure currently used to support GSM900 by mid 2007.

Vodafone Portugal made its first 3G voice, video and data call in the 900MHz band in December 2006. It used equipment from Nortel Networks and Option.

So far, France is the only Western European country to date that has made legal provisions for the deployment of UMTS technologies in the 900MHz spectrum.

In January 2006, Nortel revealed that it had completed UMTS and HSDPA trial calls over 900MHz spectrum with Orange France. Initial results of the UMTS900 trials, as submitted to the 3GPP, confirm that approximately half of all GSM900 cells will be able to use GSM900 and UMTS900 in tandem, paving the way for parallel deployments of GSM900 and UMTS900.

Informa forecasts that users will initially be able to access UMTS900 via datacards inserted into laptops, and believes operators could begin to take delivery of datacards supporting UMTS900 within months.

But the availability of compatible handsets could pose a major obstacle to the adoption of 3G over 900MHz or even 1800MHz.

Informa does not expect handsets for UMTS900 to come to market before late 2007, with volume shipments not expected until 2008.


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