The Finnish regulator, always one of Europe's most progressive, has become the first in the region to award additional 1.8GHz spectrum with a view to supporting LTE in lower frequencies.
European allocations of spectrum for mobile broadband have so far been focusing on 2.6GHz, although most operators hope to get some low frequency bandwidth for LTE/WiMAX along with the digital dividend. The three largest Finnish operators, TeliaSonera, Elisa and DNA, have all gained new allocations in the 1.8GHz band specifically for LTE, making Finland the first country in Europe to allow the use of LTE in this band.
This will allow for wider coverage at affordable cost, especially in rural areas, than 2.6GHz. The three cellcos already have 3G networks at 2.1GHz, and Finland was also one of the first European countries to allow 3G to run in 'refarmed' 900MHz GSM spectrum, again in the interests of bringing faster access to its huge rural areas.
The Minister of Communications, Suvi Lindén, said in a statement: "I hope that telecommunications companies start making preparations for the introduction of the 4G technology even though at the moment, the emphasis is still on 3G technology." She also hopes the move will allow operators to pursue parallel 3G/4G strategies and ease transition in the future.
One of the operators gaining the new rights, incumbent TeliaSonera, is feeling the recessionary pinch. A day after Deutsche Telekom shocked the markets with a profit warning, the Scandinavian carrier revised its full year forecast for 2009.
Reporting its Q1 figures, TeliaSonera said it now expects full year revenues to be about the same as in 2008, at SKR103.6 billion ($12.8 billion). It had previously predicted an increase, though of unspecified size. "The macroeconomic environment worsened during the first quarter," said CEO Lars Nyberg.
He added, "Although the telecom services industry has been less affected than other industries there are signs of changed customer behavior in several of our markets." This is leading the carrier to reduce CAPEX spend this year, from the $1.94 billion of 2008, and could cut budgets further if necessary.