Norwegian wireless network operator NetCom, a wholly owned subsidiary of TeliaSonera, has announced tomorrow’s launch of its third generation UMTS network. Initially available to laptop users only via the use of a datacard, NetCom Connect offers subscribers unlimited use of the broadband network for NOK399 a month. From 1 June the offering will be opened up to a wider group of customers with the launch of a range of 3G handsets. As it stands, NetCom’s 3G footprint includes more than 240 towns, giving it coverage of 3.5 million people (76% of the population), a figure it claims is substantially higher than rival Telenor Mobil’s equivalent network. During 2005/06 NetCom expects to increase the percentage of the population able to access either UMTS or 2.5G EDGE-based services to 95%.
NetCom won its 3G licence in 2000 and was initially required to complete the rollout of its network by 1 December 2003, but in October 2002 it appealed to the regulator to extend the deadline by two years. PT agreed to an extension and the rollout deadline for both NetCom and Telenor Mobil was postponed by 15 months to 1 March 2005. Telenor, NetCom’s sole rival in the Norwegian wireless market, launched the country’s first commercial 3G offering in December 2004 with coverage of two million inhabitants in 70 cities – just under half the population. By the end of March 2005 coverage is expected to have been extended to 132 cities, while services will be available in all towns with over 200 inhabitants by 2007.