Polkomtel beats rivals to 3G launch

3 Sep 2004

The Polish cellular operator Polkomtel has launched the country’s first commercial 3G service. Polkomtel, which operates under the name Plus GSM, says it is offering a full range of voice and data services, including video calls. Rival mobile operator Era GSM has switched on its own UMTS network but at the moment it is still trialling a data-only service, while the country’s other cellco, PTC, is aiming to have a 3G service ready by the start of 2006.

Although Polkomtel’s high speed service is currently only available in Warsaw, the company says it plans to extend coverage so that it reaches 20% of the population well before the end-2007 deadline laid down in the terms of its concession. The operator says it will not charge additional fees for using its high speed networks: customers will pay the existing voice and data call charges. Three handsets are available, with prices beginning at PLN1,000 (USD250).

Polkomtel, whose owners include TDC and Vodafone, had just under six million GSM customers at the end of June, up from 5.5 million at end-2003, to give it a 30% share of the Polish cellular market. It was awarded its UMTS concession in December 2000 after the government’s spectrum auction attracted only the three incumbents. The operators each paid EUR650 million for their licences.

While Poland was one of the first eastern European countries to hand out 3G licences, other countries have still to award their concessions. The governments of Romania and Hungary have announced in the last few days that they are both hoping to sell four UMTS licences by the end of the year. Romania’s licences will have a 15-year term and will cost EUR35 million each. Both of the existing GSM operators have said they will enter the ‘beauty contest’, bids for which must be submitted by 29 October.

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