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Sweden decides to delay 5G spectrum allocation

The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) has announced it will delay the allocation of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz bands due to a security review.

The 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz bands spectrum bands are two of the most attractive when it comes to rolling out 5G services, blending together a palatable compromise between increased download speeds and coverage. These spectrum auctions have proven to be some of the most interesting, though the delay will be an irritant for the ambitious telcos.

Pointing towards new security implications introduced in the country’s electronic communications law (PLAY), which will be implemented on January 1, 2020, the regulator feels it needs more time to continue discussions with police and security agencies. Details are thin on the ground for the moment, though this is hardly going to be viewed as a plus at the telcos who have been demanding more spectrum be released.

In June, progress looked to be gathering momentum as PTS announced a public consultation to release spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz bands. 15 national blocks of at least 20 MHz in the 3.4 GHz-3.7 GHz band were set to be auctioned, as well as up to eight 10 MHz nationwide licences at 2.3GHz. The auction was likely to take place in the early part of 2020, though these plans have now been side-lined.

Sweden is not in a unique position when it comes to a need to free-up valuable spectrum assets, though that will come as little comfort to those who were gearing-up for an auction in the coming months. Reviews like this create a sense of uncertainty in the minds of the telcos, and uncertainty is the enemy of investment. You only have to look at the UK for evidence of this.

Thanks to the creation of the Supply Chain Review, the position of Huawei is still an on-going unknown. This has led the telcos to falter with deployment plans. Unless Sweden want to encounter the same problems, such a security review will have to be completed incredibly quickly. Obligations and conditions will have to be considered and relevant, as the last thing anyone will want is protest from industry, further delaying the critical element of certainty.

Many will hope such a security review does not enter the country into the same purgatory which the UK finds itself in with the Supply Chain Review, but it would surprise few if it did.

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