3G : Sweden rejects request for roll-out delay

Mobile operators in Sweden are learning an age-old lesson: never promise more than you can deliver.

On Monday, the country’s telecommunication regulator, PTS (National Post and Telecom Agency), rejected a request by Orange SA to move the deadline for completing its 3G (third-generation) mobile broadband network back three years, to the end of 2006. Orange pointed to problems with permits for masts, a lack of 3G equipment, a weak financial market and virtually no demand for mobile data service.

On the same day, Vodafone Group PLC submitted a request to extend the deadline to 2005, citing similar difficulties in receiving permits for its masts and problems in the Swedish Defense Authority’s handling of frequencies.

The country’s 3G license conditions call for operators to provide service to 8.86 million inhabitants, or 99.98 per cent of the population, by the end of 2003. That’s a tall order for any operator but particularly those building networks in sparsely-populated Sweden.

To ease the burden, the Swedish government has virtually given away the licenses. Operators must pay only an administration fee of around 100,000 Swedish kronor (CDN$17,300) per license-not a bad deal compared to the average of 8.5 billion euros (CDN$13.36 billion) paid per license in Germany.

“None of the operators had to make the kind of coverage promises they made,” said Katarina K

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