Portugal’s smallest cellco, Optimus, has signed an agreement with Motorola for the build out of a 3G network in the north of the country. The two companies have been working together on a trial of the technology for four months, following the success of which Optimus decided to select Motorola for a three year deal. The cellco plans to have launched the technology by the second quarter of 2004.
Optimus won its 3G licence in December 2000, along with its rivals TMN and Vodafone; a fourth concession was awarded to OniWay, a new contender backed by fixed line telco Oni Telecom and Norway’s Telenor, which has since wound up its operations in the country. The licences comprise 2×15MHz of shared spectrum and 5MHz of non-shared spectrum, and stipulate that 3G networks should cover 20% of the population by the end of the first year of operation, 40% by the end of the third and 60% by the end of the fifth. The operators were initially given until the end of 2001 to roll out the necessary infrastructure and launch 3G services, but in June that year they appealed to the regulator ANACOM to push back the deadline in view of equipment shortages and technological problems. The following month ANACOM agreed to a consultation and the UMTS licence holders, along with the equipment manufacturers, were required to provide details of their progress towards 3G services so that a new timetable for commercial launch could be drawn up. In October 2001 the regulator announced that 3G launch would be postponed for a year to 31 December 2002, although even this proved to be optimistic; Vodafone called for a further delay in August 2002, followed by a similar request from Optimus the following month.
Vodafone finally launched a limited 3G service in Lisbon and Oporto in early January 2004, while TMN also expects to do so in the near future. At the end of September 2003 TMN was the country’s largest cellco with 4.69 million subscribers and a market share of 46%, Vodafone had 3.24 million customers and a share of 32% and Optimus claimed 2.25 million users and 22% of the market.