Finns roll out 3G in 900MHz band

Finnish mobile operator Elisa said Thursday that it has launched what it claims to be the world’s first commercial WCDMA 3G network in the 900MHz spectrum.

Local kit maker Nokia Siemens Networks supplied its WCDMA Frequency Refarming platform for the project, which has been in trial for over a year.

Elisa claims to be the first in the world to launch a commercial WCDMA900 network, which is expected to improve the efficiency of its 3G network and bring high speed mobile data services to customers in sparsely populated rural areas, as well as improving indoor coverage for 3G.

Almost everywhere in Western Europe, the 900MHz spectrum is strictly tied to the use of GSM services. But as these GSM licences come up for renewal, it is anticipated that regulators will permit the deployment of different technologies in the GSM spectrum.

But there has been some 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.

There is also the small matter of a lack of compatible handsets, which could pose a major obstacle to the adoption of 3G over 900MHz or even 1800MHz.

Nokia has already introduced a mobile device with WCDMA900 compatibility – the Nokia 6121 classic.

But even without a significant number of UMTS900 handsets available, spectrum refarming is already on the agenda with a handful of European countries. France has already made legal provisions for the deployment of UMTS technologies in the 900MHz band spectrum and UK communications watchdog Ofcom has announced plans to allow for the refarming of 2G mobile spectrum for other services and technologies. Portugal is also on board with the initiative.

“Thanks to the Nokia Siemens Networks frequency refarming solution, we are now running WCDMA and GSM efficiently in our 900MHz frequency allocation, enabling us to extend our 3G services cost-effectively from cities to the less populated areas of Finland”, said Veli-Matti Mattila, president and CEO of Elisa.

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