IT minister: New 5G frequency band tender coming in winter

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Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Andres Sutt (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

A new tender for frequency bands of fifth generation technology (5G) for telecommunications operators will presumably come in the winter, said Foreign Trade and IT Minister Andres Sutt (Reform).

The implementation of the newest form of data communication technology in Estonia ran aground last spring, as then-IT minister Raul Siem (EKRE) cancelled a tender for 5G frequencies. The tender would have given operators such as Telia, Elisa and Tele2 an option to develop 5G solutions. Siem found that 5G should be distributed in four frequencies instead of the previously planned three.

The regulation to distribute the frequencies between three operators is still in force with a regulation to providing a new tender has reached its completion stage. The Ministry of Economic Affairs wishes to establish rules for 5G network security in the coming weeks, an issue that has come up with relation to the use of Chinese technology.

Sutt said: "The 5G contest is actually awaiting the same establishment of the general security requirements and as soon as we have established those, we will move on with the contest. My wish is to move forward as fast as possible and I believe you will hear of decisions in the near future. We are talking about the winter."

At the same time, there has been no decision made on how many frequencies will be made available. "Whether we go with three or four, we must decide separately, but as a general principle, more competition is good," the minister said.

Responding to a question if he would rather see it be distributed to four operators, the minister said: "We should not look for anything more from this other than that we will decide once we have set the conditions for the tender."

According to Telia, who opened a network based on the existing 5G frequencies in the end of 2020, all operators are awaiting clearance about the distribution of frequency bands.

"The fastest way would certainly be to go forward with the frequency tender by the rules in force today, stating three frequencies. To go forward as fast as possible because otherwise the rest of the world runs far ahead of us with 5G," said Andre Visse, a technology manager at Telia Estonia.

Telecomms company BITE Group, operating in Latvia and Lithuania, announced that if four 5G licenses were distributed in Estonia, they wish to run in the tender. According to the group, they would offer considerably lower prices for consumers.

Telia Estonia's technology manager doubts in the plan's feasibility: "The mobile communications market competition in Estonia is very very tight even today and prices are among the lowest in the world."

Repsonding to a question about if BITE could be able to offer cheaper cellular data, Visse said: "We will live and see."

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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