Telia said the decision by Sweden’s telecoms regulator to end the auction of 700 MHz spectrum licences for mobile broadband services due to government security concerns is a “step back for the digitalisation” of Sweden, as it delays the expansion of mobile infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.
The government decided that the 694-790 MHz frequency band should be available for terrestrial television broadcasting “up to and including May 31, 2018”, noting that this revokes its decision from 2014 to release the frequency space for other use from and including Apr. 1, 2017.
Catarina Wretman, acting director general of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS), said the government decision “has altered the preconditions for the assignment in the 700 MHz band in such a way that we cannot implement the auction as planned. We intend to resume work on how the band should be assigned when these preconditions have become clear.”
PTS has therefore cancelled the auction that had been scheduled for Dec. 1.
Wretman added that the government decision was based on a changed security policy situation: “There is an ongoing investigation into an advanced and secure broadband solution for stakeholders within public order, health, security and defence,” she said.
Hélène Barnekow, EVP and head of region Sweden at Telia, said it was crucial for Sweden to use the 700 MHz band for mobile services, to enable the country “to take the next step in the digitalisation. Therefore, we regret the government's decision.”
Barnekow agreed that it was important that public functions have access to future proof communication
“However, further investigation should not be the reason for stopping the auction of the 700 MHz band. The mobile operators have shown that they can deliver a secure, cost effective and fast-implemented solution for public safety through the commercial mobile networks. It is now important that the authorities, together with the market participants, sit down and discuss what solutions there are for the public safety functions,” she added.
Frequencies in the 700 MHz band are regarded as important for the further expansion of LTE and future 5G networks in Europe. In May this year, the European Council said the 700 MHz band should be made available for mobile broadband services across the European Union by 2020 as part of a harmonised approach to freeing up this spectrum band.
Germany and France were the first two countries in the region to carry out 700 MHz spectrum auctions, while Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the UK are among those that have outlined plans to repurpose the 700 MHz band in the next few years.