Estonia to put three 5G frequency authorizations up for auction

Telecommunications mast.
Telecommunications mast. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A proposal was made on Thursday to put three 5G frequency authorizations up for auction by Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Andres Sutt (Reform).

At its Thursday sitting, the government approved a regulation on the security of communication networks that specifies the security requirements for 5G and other telecoms networks.

The security regulation for communications networks is a prerequisite for organizing a 5G frequency auction and building a 5G communications network in Estonia.

"Today's decision marks the end of very long negotiations that held back the development of high-speed internet and 5G in Estonia. This issue has been discussed for the last 2-3 years, under the leadership of several different IT ministers, and now we have come to a conclusion," Sutt said in a statement. 

He said it is important for Estonia to ensure that the country's 5G networks and infrastructure are reliable and free of high-risk technology.

"5G communications networks will become the mainstay and enabler of our digital development and society in the near future, so they must be secure and reliable," Sutt added. 

The regulation specifies how business operators must take account of national security interests in the future. The potential threat posed by hardware and software to national security will be assessed in the authorization procedure. The authorization requirement and the ban on high-risk hardware and software will apply to technology that is planned to be introduced after the entry into force of the regulation.

In addition, both will apply to existing technology in which functions of 5G or later are introduced.

The authorization requirement and the prohibition on high-risk technology apply differently in different parts of the communications network. For example, for core networks they apply immediately, whereas for 5G and later networks they will apply after a transition period. This means that authorizations concerning 5G networks must be applied for immediately, but the use of high-risk hardware and software is allowed until December 31, 2025.

Sutt said the regulation will not change the lives of ordinary people or the smart devices sold in shops, but will ensure the security of the country's IT infrastructure.

"In this way, we will ensure that our communications networks are reliable and people's data is protected," Sutt added. 

In order to start the frequency distribution, the minister of entrepreneurship and IT must approve the terms and conditions of the competition for frequencies in the 3.6 gigahertz (GHz) frequency range. On the proposal of the minister, three frequency authorizations will be distributed in the competition. 

Describing the 3,410-3,800 megahertz (MHz) range as one of the most important 5G ranges, the minister said it is important that its allocation allows for the best quality of service and the possibility to offer all new-generation services.

"The 5G services of the future, such as self-driving buses and high-speed data communication, need the widest possible bandwidth to operate, which has also been the European Commission's recommendation. As it has not been possible to conclude a coordination agreement with Russia, and in view of the resulting restrictions on the use of the band, dividing the band into three equal parts is a reasonable compromise that also supports competition," Sutt said. 

The frequency range of 3,410-3,600 MHz will be divided into three equal parts of 130 MHz.  More detailed terms and conditions of the competition will be sent to telecommunications companies for an opinion in the coming days.  

The frequency contest will be announced after the entry into force of the amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, that is after February 1, 2022, after which communications operators will have 60 days to register for the contest.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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