Vodafone CR to miss 3G launch deadline, turn back on UMTS altogether?

7 Jan 2008

Czech mobile operator Vodafone CR (formerly Oskar) will not launch a 3G service by its end-January 2008 deadline, and may be prepared to turn its back on the technology altogether in favour of other, newer alternatives. A report in the Czech Business Weekly speculates that Vodafone CR may write off its USD88 million UMTS concession, purchased in February 2005 at a knock-down price compared to the sums paid by Telefonica O2 CR and T-Mobile in 2001, following its failure to secure a network sharing deal with one of its rivals. Vodafone has been trying to negotiate a deal with a competitor to share technology since mid-2006 when it mothballed plans to deploy its own infrastructure, however, the talks, mainly with T-Mobile, appear to have fizzled out.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, in January 2006 Oskar announced it planned to introduce 3G services before the end of the year, and also to upgrade the network to high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology. However in a surprising turnaround in July, it said it was putting its 3G plans on hold in the face of what it called ‘excessive’ rollout costs. The announcement came not long after it revealed it had signed an exclusive 3G handset contract with Huawei (in February 2006), and the award of 3G equipment contracts to Ericsson and Siemens in April. At the time it said it would instead focus on alternative data technologies such as EDGE, which was launched in March 2005, and self-branded e-mail services, which were launched in August 2006 in partnership with Visto Mobile under the brand name Business Email Plus.

Vodafone’s Czech unit has said officially that it will now roll out a UMTS service by 1 January 2009, instead of the previous 31 January 2008, but local analysts point out it is currently testing other more up-to-date technologies such as 4G, Long Term Evolution (LTE) and a mixture of Wi-Fi enabled fixed line and mobile phones, and may circumvent UMTS altogether. In addition, Vodafone CR has signed a joint agreement with Telefonica O2 and T-Mobile to build a network for mobile television based on Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB-H) technology.

Czech Republic, Vodafone Czech Republic