The Norwegian regulator PT yesterday awarded a 3G licence to Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary 3 after it was the only bidder for the two concessions on offer. 3, which paid just NOK62 million (USD8.25 million) for the licence, is required to provide coverage to 30% of the country’s population by September 2009. It hopes that the acquisition of the licence will enable it to boost its position in Scandinavia; it already provides services in Sweden and plans to launch in Denmark by the end of this year. When it enters the Norwegian 3G market, 3 will be faced with competition from former incumbent Telenor’s mobile arm and Swedish operator NetCom, which won their concessions in 2000 via a beauty contest. At that date the regulator also awarded licences to Tele2 and Broadband Mobil, a consortium between Norwegian telco Enitel and Finland’s Sonera. However, the former handed back its licence last year, claiming that it could not afford to build out a network and the last was revoked when Enitel went bankrupt in 2001.
Meanwhile, in Italy 3 has revealed that it has run out of 3G handsets just six months after launching. The country’s only 3G operator claims that 1.5 million video handsets are currently on their way to replenish reserves, and has announced a year-end sales target of one million phones. 3 Italia currently has 300,000 subscribers, but says that the lack of handsets has held back its growth. The operator hopes equipment suppliers Motorola and NEC Corp will ship the additional handsets to Italy by the end of September.