UMTS - Third Generation Mobile - ICP studies postponement and denies GSM request

/ Updated on 24.01.2008

The Instituto das Comunicações de Portugal (ICP) has requested the four licensed UMTS operators to present grounds for postponing the start date of this technology's commercial offer, as defended by these operators. At the same time, the Institute analysed a request from the UMTS operator Oniway for the assignment of DCS 1800 (GSM) frequencies. ICP has already informed the operator of the possible rejection of this request, due to lack of grounds in either the license held by the operator or the spectrum assignment rules for GSM services.

The Institute will also conduct a formal consultation to manufacturers regarding expected dates of supply of UMTS equipment in sufficient quantities to allow commercial operation of third generation services.

The decision on the need to postpone the start date will be taken after receipt of contributions from manufacturers and grounds from operators. In the meantime, operators continue to be bound by the conditions specified in the licenses, and specifically the date established therein: January 1, 2002.

Requests to postpone the start date of UMTS services were sent to ICP in June and July of this year. In these requests, the UMTS technology licensed operators expressed their concern with alleged delays in the provision of third generation terminals, as well as difficulties in stabilising the network "software", that made it impossible to offer services to the market within the established time scale.

Due to shortcomings in the justifications presented by the operators to ICP and the existence of divergences among these operators in what regards to the desirable postponement period, the Institute decided to request the UMTS technology licensed operators to submit due grounds considering the economic, technical and market assumptions that justify such a postponement.

At the same time the operator Oniway submitted to ICP a request for an extraordinary assignment of DCS 1800 (GSM) frequencies. In this request, the operator argued that it needed to establish its own network in zones of greatest traffic, in order to supply services using the GSM/GPRS technology.

ICP's likely decision, as already communicated to the interested party, is to reject the request from operator Oniway - holder of a UMTS license - because it does not comply with the GSM frequency assignment rules - i.e. public tender. The operator has ten working days to make a written statement on this matter.

It was also considered that there is a lack of well founded grounds for the assignment of a fourth GSM network, giving that several questions still need to be clarified regarding the availability of the radio-electric spectrum, which is a limited resource over the medium term.

Oniway also requested authorisation for using the networks of the three GSM operators, via national roaming, for the provision of GSM/GPRS services. The provision of roaming, it should be remembered, was one of the selection criteria of the UMTS public tender, to which the three GSM operators that have also been licensed for UMTS services agreed.

The concession of such roaming services is, however, foreseen within a scenario of the operation of UMTS networks. For this reason, ICP considered that it should not impose the provision of roaming on the three mobile operators prior to installation of the UMTS network that is subject to the license assigned to Oniway. Nonetheless, the Institute would not oppose to the establishment of agreements, in a climate of freedom of negotiation, between Oniway and any of the GSM operators.

In order to minimise the effects of the possible lack of availability of UMTS technology equipment within due time, ICP will conduct analysis of the concept and necessary conditions for the exercise of the activity of Mobile Virtual Nertwork Operator (MVNO).