1 October 2002 The Swedish telecoms regulator has rejected a request from mobile operator Orange for a three-year delay in building its third generation (3G) network in Sweden. The move will concern many rival mobile operators struggling to build 3G networks across Europe.
Sweden’s Post and Telecoms Agency said that France Telecom-owned Orange would have to adhere to the original terms of its 3G licence. It stated that the operator’s reasons for requesting a delay had not been persuasive.
After winning its 3G licence, Orange committed itself to rolling out a 3G network covering most of Sweden by the end of 2003. In August 2002, Orange asked for an extension until 2006 citing factors including a delay in receiving planning permission to build 3G antennae. Orange has also requested that the number of people the licence is required to cover be reduced from nearly 9 million to 8.3 million.
If Orange fails to abide by the terms of its licence, the Swedish authorities could impose a fine and even terminate its licence. Other operators granted a licence in Sweden include Vodafone, Tele2 of Norway and Hi3G, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa.
In a separate development, the Swedish division of Vodafone has confirmed that it had also made a request to the authorities to extend the company’s deadline for building a 3G network in Sweden. The operator is seeking a two year extension to the end of 2005. Vodafone’s request is based on different issues, including problems in securing permits for its 3G antennae with the Swedish military and municipalities.
At the same time, other mobile operators across Europe are also struggling to meet their 3G deadlines. In mid-2002, Finland’s Sonera and Spain’s Telefonica said they would write off a joint €8.4 billion investment to develop a 3G network in Germany. Tele2 has also asked the Norwegian government to push back its deadline for building a 3G network in its home country.
Across Europe, mobile operators spent around €100 billion buying 3G licences in a series of auctions and so-called ‘beauty contests’ – and few governments are inclined to grant them a refund.