Ministry still undecided on number of 5G licenses to be issued

A cell tower outside the
A cell tower outside the "Super Ministry" in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The number of 5G licenses issued by the state will not be decided before new security legislation is passed in the Riigikogu, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has said.

The government is expected to pass amendments to the Electronic Communications Act on September 15 which bans equipment and software from non-democratic countries being used in Estonian communications networks. 

After 2025, this legislation would ban the use of technology from non-democratic countries. According to the initial plan, hardware and software from China's Huawei should no longer be used in Estonian networks from 2026 onwards.

The official wording aims to establish measures to ensure that the public electronic communications service and the public electronic communications network comply with national security interests.

Stuck behind the regulation is the competition for 5G frequency licenses, which cannot be announced before the legislation is passed. 

Laura Laaster, a spokesperson for the ministry, said the process can move forward if the amendments are passed on September 15 as the Consumer Protection and Technical Surveillance Authority (TTJA) will be able to launch a new competition.

However, it has not been agreed if the 5G band will be split into three or four.

"We can talk about the number of permits once the security regulation has been adopted," she said. Companies will have 60 days to express interest in a license, Laaster said.

Another reason for the delay has been a lengthy lawsuit brought by communications company Levikom Eesti OÜ against the state's previous decision to divide the frequency band into three. 

The primary concern is whether the distribution of three frequency permits infringes on the freedom of enterprise and whether this is lawful. 

Levikom argues that issuing only three licenses plays into the hands of the three biggest mobile operators in Estonia - Telia, Elisa and Tele2. But several communications companies believe they can only offer 4G development, not quality 5G services, on smaller frequency bands.

Levikom has filed an application for the company's reorganization in court but is hoping to compete in the competition. The company has said it has an investor.  


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Editor: Helen Wright

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