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Initially patchy 5G Estonian network expanding rapidly

A cellular mast (photo is illustrative).
A cellular mast (photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

While 5G coverage is not yet available everywhere in Estonia, telecoms companies are actively expanding their networks, while both Telia and Elisa plan to have installed coverage to around 50 percent of the population by year-end, ERR reports.

As of this month, Telia, which opened the first ever 5G network in Estonia, operates 265 5G base stations, which cover more than 40 percent of the populace.

Telia's network connects to over 100,000 5G-enabled phones, across tens of thousands of users. 

Telia plans to increase the coverage of base stations to exceed a threshold of 50 percent of Estonian residents by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Elisa says it has similar goals.

The company opened its first 5G network this summer, expanding to Harju, Pärnu, Rapla and Tartu counties by the end of that summer. 

Elisa's 5G network covers more than 20 percent of the population.

Kristo Kork, head of Elisa's mobile networks, told ERR that the company's 5G coverage in the capital is in place in the Kristiine, Pelgulinn and Lasnamäe districts.

Kork said: "We will build the new network based primarily on customer needs, i.e. principally in areas where the use of existing technologies is high, and where 5G helps bring the user experience to a new level."

Elisa entered the market with its 5G smart packages this month, while Tele2 has pledged to start offering smart packages in the upcoming year. 

At the same time, Tele2 customers whose phones can support 5G have been able to try out the network, particularly in Tallinn, via a package which started in summer.

Tanel Sarri, Tele2's technology director, said: "As of today, our 5G coverage lies mainly in central Tallinn, but thanks to the recent 700 MHz frequency band auction, we will soon open networks in various other parts of Estonia, and be able to expand the coverage area continuously."

Sarri added that the company's goal is to cover locations across Estonia where 4G is currently widely used, as soon as possible.

"At the same time, Tele2 already has base stations prepared, where we will turn on 5G as a result of the new 700 MHz licenses won from the auction. We will probably achieve pan-Estonian coverage within a few years," said Sarri.

5G enables the exchange of data at a speed of 10 GB/s, up until now only viable through cable connections, ERR reports.

The main 5G bandwidth license auctions took place through summer, with Telia, Elisa and Telia2 winning one each, paying several million euros in each case. Lithuanian operator Bite was unable to win any of the three auctions.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Karin Koppel

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