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Government to relax 3G rollout rules

10 Feb 2003

The Norwegian government has announced plans to ease the rules surrounding the rollout of 3G services in the country, acknowledging that the targets set when the UMTS licences were awarded in 2000 are now unrealistic in the wake of technical and financial problems that have emerged in the ensuing period. Under the new regulations, operators will be given an extra 15 months to meet the rollout deadlines, while coverage demands will be lowered considerably; Norway will become the first country in Europe to allow such a relaxation if the plans materialise. Despite the government awarding four concessions via a beauty contest in 2000, there are currently just two operators left holding a 3G licence, namely Telenor and Netcom, after Broadband Mobile went bankrupt in 2001 and Swedish operator Tele2 handed back its licence in autumn 2002. The government now plans to auction off the two vacant licences at a minimum price of NOK200 million (USD29 million) each in a bid to introduce more competition to the market. The minimum coverage condition of the two licences will be reduced from 40% to 30% in order to make the concessions more attractive to potential bidders. The date of the auction has not yet been announced.


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