IT minister wants to issue 5G frequency permits ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem.
Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem has sent for public consultation a regulation for changing the competition for the first 5G frequency band — the 3.6 GHz frequency band — according to which a competition will be announced for four frequency permits instead of the previously planned three.

According to Siem's proposal, the 3410-3800 MHz frequency range is to be divided up into not three but four equal frequency permits. The minister believes that this will encourage competition while also helping ensure the efficient use of frequency resources, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications said.

"We have to keep the market open to as many new developments and providers as possible," Siem said.

The frequency range in question will be divided into four parts that are big enough to allow for 5G technologies' data arrays. In addition, a smaller, fifth buffer band will remain free to ensure the uninterrupted functioning of the Estonian Defence Forces' (EDF) equipment.

The state competition for frequency permits is open to all interested communications companies from both Estonia and abroad.

The deadline for applications for 5G frequencies is 11:59 p.m. on June 18. The aforementioned changes are planned to be implemented no later than June 17, and as a result, the deadline for the competition is to be extended by 30 days, allowing communications companies who have already submitted applications to make necessary changes and new interested parties to submit their own.

Frequency permits competition in the courts

The 5G frequency band competition was the subject of a lengthy court dispute. This March, the Supreme Court of Estonia rejected an appeal in cassation filed by Levikom Eesti OÜ in response to a Tallinn Circuit Court judgment ruling that the state was in the right regarding its terms for the 5G competition.

Levikom had been unsatisfied with the circuit court ruling that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications did the right thing when including just three frequency bands in the 5G frequency permit competition and appealed the second-tier court's decision in January.

In its judgment, the circuit court had agreed with Tallinn Administrative Court in dismissing Levikom's complaint against a regulation issued by the minister of entrepreneurship and IT with which the minister launched a public competition for the frequency range of 3410-3800 MHz meant for the establishment of 5G networks as well as a decision by the  Consumer Protection and Technical Surveillance Authority (TTJA) announcing the competition for the allocation of frequencies.

The main issue for the administrative and circuit courts was whether the regulations to give three frequency permits, instead of four, go against freedom of enterprise or not. Levikom has argued that the competition regulation was wrongly drafted, and that the 5G frequency permit is to be given to the three major mobile operators, Telia, Elisa and Tele2 by dividing the band into three parts.

The primary concern in both lower-tier courts was whether the distribution of three frequency permits in lieu of four infringes on the freedom of enterprise and whether this is lawful. Levikom has argued that the competition regulation was drafted incorrectly and that by dividing the frequency band into just three, permits for 5G would be played directly into the hands of three major communications companies — Telia, Elisa and Tele2.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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