Estonia’s cellcos call for 5G rethink

18 Jun 2020

Cellcos in Estonia are calling on the country’s Minister of Foreign Trade and IT to rethink plans to award four licences in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band. In a letter to Raul Siem, the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL) claims that splitting the range into four equal lots would only give operators sufficient spectrum to further develop 4G services and would not support full 5G networks.

Estonia had originally launched an auction for three equal licences, but this process was blocked by a legal challenge from wireless ISP Levikom, which said it would be hampering competition to offer three licences to the trio of incumbent providers. Its stance was supported by the country’s competition authority and the government was forced into a rethink, with the Minister announcing its new plans to auction four concessions earlier this month.

The matter is complicated by the fact that neighbouring Russia utilises the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz range for military communications and there are questions relating to cross-border interference until Russia can migrate the military to alternative frequencies. Estonia is also having to wait to offer 700MHz spectrum for 5G since Russia is currently using that range for TV services and has not announced when it will be freed.

Estonian cellco Tele2 Eesti has gone one step further than its rivals by requesting that the state back an open access model for 5G, using the available spectrum to support a single nationwide network which would then be used by service providers on a wholesale basis. In a letter to the minister cited by ERR, Tele2 Eesti’s CEO Chris Alan Robbins argued: ‘This would be a real motor for innovation for Estonia, not a closed infrastructure model like we have right now, where all wireless access is controlled by three operators.’