The growing threat of wireless broadband technologies to "traditional" cellular and fixed operators has been highlighted in Europe by developments in Finland and the Czech Republic.
In Finland, the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications granted an operating license to Digita Oy to build out a mobile broadband communications networks based on FLASH-OFDM in the 450MHz spectrum.
In the Czech Republic T-Mobile said it would launch a wireless broadband network based on UMTS TDD technology from IPWireless in Prague by the year-end, with nationwide coverage to be built during consequent months.
Flarion Technologies and Siemens Communications which will jointly supply and install the flash OFDM network in Finland, commended Finnish government's decision. In total, five of the seven operators who applied for the new 450MHz license proposed FLASH-OFDM as their preferred technology. Digita, who will be a network operator only and will lease capacity on equal terms to all operators, have announced that they will initially focus on providing coverage to those sparsely populated areas that need broadband the most urgently.
"Facing the big cell size in 450 MHz bands especially, FLASH-OFDM offers an outstanding spectral efficiency and scalability in rural areas. With latency of only 50 milliseconds and an air interface for enterprise-class IP services the system is very well suited for enterprise or interactive mobile broadband applications", said Christoph Caselitz, President of Mobile Networks at Siemens Communications.
The Digita network will offer a broadband solution bridging the "digital divide" between urban and rural areas and providing high-speed data access for a multitude of IP-based services such as Internet access, video-streaming, teleconferencing, remote learning/ education an telemedicine, supporting the government's policy of equitable access to information and communication services.
"Finland has been a principal advocate in mobile communications for over 25 years," says Michael Gallagher, president of Flarion Technologies. "With the selection of FLASH-OFDM for mobile broadband, Finland has again demonstrated its vision and leadership in Europe."
Julien Grivolas, Analyst at Ovum, said, "This is a significant milestone for Flarion as it is the first commercial win for its Flash-OFDM technology. Even though Flarion's solution was intensively tested world-wide, by Nextel in the USA, T-Mobile in the Netherlands and Vodafone KK in Japan, there was no commercial agreements until yesterday. The proprietary nature of the technology seems to be too large an issue for the established mobile operators.
"In contrast, the 450 MHz band appears to be a good opportunity for Flarion. Many European countries intend to reallocate their 450 MHz bands, which had been occupied by analogue mobile telephony. In October 2004, Flarion announced a significant OEM partnership with Siemens to address the 450MHz market. However, Flarion's Flash-OFDM faces competition from the CDMA450 EV-DO technology, heavily pushed by Qualcomm and already deployed in Czech Republic (Eurotel Praha) and in Romania (Zapp Mobile) for instance.
omania (Zapp Mobile) for instance.
"This makes Flarion's success in Finland all the more encouraging, as it tries to grab contracts in newly-realocated 450MHz bands. Germany presents an opportunity, as it has already awarded two licenses, but has yet to decide on the technology."
Czechs to get TDD
Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic , T-Mobile announced that it would launch a wireless broadband network, based on UMTS TDD technology from IPWireless in Prague, by the year-end, with nationwide coverage to be built during consequent months.
The Czech market has one of the lowest broadband penetration rates in Central Europe but increasing computer penetration has only whetted the appetite for true broadband services, which currently reaches only 2%of the Czech population while the EU average is around 10 per cent.
"Today we announce a major step in our strategy based on customers´ wishes --- we commit ourselves to broadband data as the second business focus area," said Roland Mahler, Managing Director of T-Mobile CZ, at the launch.
"We firmly believe the wireless broadband technology will provide all fixed network services and the strategy will clearly give T-Mobile a further boost on its way to being the number one operator in the Czech Republic."
T-Mobile aims to maximise the value of its acquired UMTS license by using UMTS TDD technology operating in its "unpaired" 1.9 GHz UMTS spectrum. It will be, at launch, the world's fastest commercial UMTS network, capable of delivering peak sector speeds of up to 4.5 Mbps (average user experience runs to 512 Kbps), according to IP Wireless.
T-Mobile also plans to extend its wireless broadband footprint in the first phase lasting until summer 2006 to cover nearly half of the Czech population by leveraging the same UMTS TDD technology in the 872 MHz spectrum that it recently acquired. .
T-Mobile Czech Republic will also continue to upgrade its existing 2.5G GPRS network to EDGE, as well as the next generation of UMTS FDD technology (HSDPA/HSUPA) "as soon as it has proven to be a stable and viable commercial offering".