STOCKHOLM (04/14/2000) - Sweden's National Post and Telecom Agency (Post- och telestyrelsen, or PTS) announced today that, beginning in May, it will start evaluating applications for the four third-generation (3G) mobile phone network licenses the regulatory body will award in November.
The PTS had originally proposed to issue five such licenses, but said in a statement today that the four UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) licenses will ensure competition as well as provide each of the operators enough spectrum to enable them to offer a complete range of wireless broadband services.
Sweden currently has three operators of second-generation GSM (global system for mobile communications) networks. In addition to voice, third-generation mobile networks are also designed to offer multimedia services, including Internet access, with data transmission rates of up to 384K-bps (bits per second) in the wide area and up to 2M-bps in local areas.
UMTS is part of the International Telecommunication Union's family of specifications for third-generation mobile networks and permits the re-use of some elements in current GSM networks.
Unlike in the U.K., where an ongoing round of auctions for 3G licenses looks set to bring the government tens of billions of dollars in proceeds, in Sweden the licences will be awarded according to specific evaluation criteria set by the PTS, rather than a bidding process. [See "Eight Remain as U.K. 3G Bids Total $27B," April 11.]Applications for the licenses must be with the PTS Sept. 1 by the latest, it said.
In addition to UMTS, the PTS said that up to two of the new licensees may also be allowed to operate GSM networks.
Although widely viewed as one of the world's most advanced mobile phone markets, Sweden is actually lagging several European countries that already have issued 3G licenses. In Finland, Sweden's mobile-phone-mad Nordic neighbor, four 3G licenses were handed out in March 1999. [See "Ericsson Scores 3G Mobile Network Deal in Finland," Feb. 18.]Nevertheless, 3G networks in Europe are not expected to see commercial takeoff until 2002, while Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. is scheduled to launch the world's first commercial 3G network in May 2001. [See "NTT DoCoMo Eyes Commercial 3G Launch in May 2001," April 5.]More than 55 percent of the Swedish population has access to a mobile phone, the PTS said in a separate statement, citing results from a recent survey ordered by the European Commission.
PTS, in Stockholm, can be reached at +46-8-678-5500, or via the Web at http://www.pts.se/.