Norway’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) has initiated a tender for the country’s fourth UMTS concession, after an application by start-up cellco Novotel initiated a new assignment procedure. The spectrum (paired frequency in the 1964.9MHz-1979.7MHz and 2154.9MHz-2169.7MHz bands and a block of unpaired frequency in the 1900MHz-1905MHz band) is the country’s last unused allocation of 3G spectrum. The MoTC is inviting interested parties to submit applications for the concession by 22 August. The winner will be required to offer coverage to 30% of the population within six years of receiving its licence. Novotel was recently founded by entrepreneur Nadir Nalbant and the Reitan Group. Mr Nalbant was the former owner of mobile reseller Chess Communications, which was sold to TeliaSonera in September 2005.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, the Norwegian Post and Telecommunications Authority (NPT) awarded UMTS licences in December 2000 to Telenor, NetCom, Tele2 Norge and the Broadband Mobile consortium, led by alternative fixed line provider Enitel and Finland’s Sonera. Broadband Mobile was dissolved in mid-2001 after Enitel went bankrupt, and Tele2 handed back its licence in November 2002 after deciding to proceed as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Only one of the returned concessions has been sold — to Hi3G Access Norway, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa, in September 2003 for NOK62 million (EUR7.83 million). Telenor and NetCom were initially required to roll out UMTS networks covering at least 10% of the population within a year, rising to 40% coverage within three years and 90% within five. However, in February 2003 the NPT relaxed its requirements, giving them until 1 March 2005 to launch commercial services covering 40% of the population; both met the deadline. Hi3G Access Norway has been given until September 2009 to achieve 30% population coverage.