Finland blazes UMTS900 trail

The Finns have long been at the forefront of the spectrum refarming movement, and the deployment of 3G in the 900MHz band made further headway this week with TeliaSonera.

The Finnish arm of the Nordic carrier said Friday that it has tapped Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) to deliver WCDMA and HSPA kit that operates in the 900MHz band, to help provide coverage is some of the remotest areas of Finland.

The new UMTS900 network will be built on NSN’s Flexi base stations and RNC 2600 radio network controllers, which TeliaSonera claims will help it save on operational costs in rural areas as well as increasing quality in more populated regions.

Finland, and Sweden, are trailblazers when it comes to opening up the 900MHz frequencies, which have long been tied to GSM services. Potential changes to the GSM Directive in the near future, could lend significant impetus to the development of UMTS900 by opening up the 900MHz band to technologies other than GSM. Such amendments should give a boost to operators looking for easier and cheaper ways to roll out next-generation networks.

A notable step has already taken place with the European Parliament’s recent informal acceptance of the Commission’s proposed amendment. The text still needs to be formally adopted by the Parliament and Council, which could happen soon, followed by the Commission’s adoption of the amendment.

The move would represent a breakthrough for the Commission, which has been trying to alter the directive for a couple of years. The Commission had originally tried to repeal it by end-2007 or early-2008, but the attempt was blocked by the European Parliament. The revised amendment appears to have more positive momentum.

Member states aside from Finland and Sweden have been awaiting the amendment, and the move would give more clarity to those looking to pave the way for UMTS900. Ideally, it should also lead to more concrete guidance on tackling some of the hurdles that regulators and operators face in enabling UMTS900 rollouts.

There are several major challenges in enabling rollouts, and chief among them has been finding a fair way to reallocate spectrum among operators. Even when the situation has been resolved, it could take a long time to carry out the process.

The main problems are in countries where later entrants have access to only 1800MHz or 2100MHz frequencies. These companies want 900MHz spectrum in order to compete on equal terms, but their requirements must be balanced with incumbents’ reluctance to give frequencies up.

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