4G mobile network
The Estonian mobile operator EMT launched a test network using 4th generation (4G) connections in the end of February. The network is the first of its kind in Eastern Europe and third of its kind in the North -EMT's parent TeliaSonera recently launched 4G commercial networks in Stockholm and Oslo.
"We take the preparations for the implementing of the 4G technology very seriously," says Valdo Kalm, CEO of EMT to news2biz. "Mobile phone calls are already considered a commodity, and as we see a lot of our clients using mobile data transfer on everyday basis, we believe they will implement the 4G technology fast."
The network was set up in the commerce centre Solaris in the middle of Tallinn. According to Mr Kalm, network tests went smoothly and a stable data connection as fast as 50 Mbit per second was reached.
However, no company can offer commercial 4G services in Estonia at the moment, as the state has not yet started assigning 4G licenses (or to be precise, allocating the frequency bands allowing fast 4G data transfer).
"We cannot go any further than testing the network," notes Mr Kalm. "In my opinion, the process is taking a bit too long." Mr Kalm adds that
there may be some other obstacles on the road towards a 4G network launch as well - first, the 4G modems needed by end-users are only produced by Samsung at the moment, and second, the clients have to be ready to implement the new technology. Still, other companies besides Samsung are already developing their own end-user 4G modems, and as recent history shows, the latter is not a serious problem -the young generation is eager to adopt any inventions from iPod to YouTube in no time.
So, the problem is in the absence of licenses. Strangely enough, tech-savvy Estonians lag behind neighbours in putting 4G in everyday use. Finland recently sold its first licenses for commercial networks, and in the beginning of March, Lithuanian TV and Radio Centre launched the first commercial 4G network in Vilnius.
According to Kalev Vapper, head of PR department of the Ministry of Economy, the criteria of allocating frequencies in 2.5GHz band are currently prepared by the ministry. However, Mr Vapper failed to provide any clue when that allocation might happen.
New law to boost broadband penetration
In a rare display of unanimity the Sejm has passed the so-called "broadband law" which seeks to facilitate development of high-capacity internet infrastructure in Poland.
According to Anna Strezynska, head of the telecoms regulator UKE, the key aspect of the new regulations is their support for publicly-funded telecoms projects. Currently, rural communes and small municipalities have no legal basis to lay broadband cables in areas where no operator wants to invest commercially. Now filling in such "gaps" will be an obligation for local authorities, similar to development of water and sewage networks or roads.
This does not mean, however, that telecoms operators may find themselves competing against publicly-funded investments. Public involvement is to be restricted only to places where no company finds commercial expansion feasible. Telecoms industry insiders, although generally very supportive of the legislation, believe this aspect of the law may cause some controversies and conflicts in the future.
Another crucial issue is access to existing power and water lines. Their owners will be obliged to make them available to telecoms operators, thus making broadband network development much easier.
Even more importantly, public officials have no more than 65 days to issue administrative decisions and permits (for instance for the installation of new masts, cables, etc.). So far there has been no limit whatsoever, leaving investors waiting for months or even years.
According to an earlier, more ambitious version of the law, all newly-built residential buildings were to be equipped in fiber optic cables - a solution so far existing only in France. This obligation has been somewhat toned down, as the final version requires developers to install internet cables in all new building with sufficient bandwidth to support high definition television signal.