Four parties received licenses to provide personal communications services in Sweden. Nordiska Tele8 and current cellular operators Telia Mobitel, Europolitan and Comviq will build nationwide Global System for Mobile communications networks at 1.8 GHz, announced the National Post and Telecom Agency in Sweden.
Cellular penetration is at about 25 percent in Sweden, one of the highest rates in the world. As such, additional spectrum is needed to relieve congested 900 MHz networks. In their proposals, Comviq and Europolitan indicated plans to position 1.8 GHz personal communications network services similarly to cellular service, said Per Erik Westin, an economic adviser in Sweden’s Post and Telecom Agency, which regulates spectrum provisions. Comviq is based in Stockholm and owned by Swedish conglomerate Kinnevik. Europolitan is owned by Nordic Tel Holdings, of which AirTouch Communications Inc. holds 51 percent, Vodafone plc owns 12 percent and individual investors hold the remaining shares.
Westin said Telia, a Swedish government-owned limited liability company, and Nordiska Tele8, owned by Washington, D.C.-based FaciliCom International, are more likely to market their PCS services to compete with basic telephone services, which are relatively low in price, said Westin. In Stockholm, monthly residential phone service costs about $15 per month, plus 1 cent to 9 cents per minute of airtime depending on whether calls are local, regional or long-distance, and if they occur during peak or off-peak times.
“Because our PCN service will operate with more frequency spectrum than the current GSM systems do, we will be able to offer a feature-rich service*…*a lower-cost and higher quality wireless service that will include information retrieval features like paging, voice mail and data transmission,” commented FaciliCom President Walter Burmeister.
Regardless of individual operators’ plans, customers are likely to see tariff reductions and new services across the board.
Westin said the use of dual-band 900 MHz/1.8 GHz phones, soon to reach the marketplace, will play a principal role in some of the cellular/PCN licensees’ overall strategy for offering service.
Sweden requires that each operator cover all urban centers of 50,000 or more people, and 50 percent of the country’s total population by 1999, said Westin. Between now and then, the telecom agency will monitor carriers’ progress in network rollout.
Nordiska Tele8, based in Malmoe, Sweden, said it will start offering service later this year and plans to offer a number of services.
Each of the four consortia was required to pay $15,000 for the PCN license. Annually, the operators will be required to pay 21 cents per $152 in revenue or $4,600, whichever number is higher.
Sweden claims about 1 million each of analog and digital cellular customers. Telia is the sole analog operator, and Comviq and Telia each carry between 400,000 and 500,000 subscribers on their 900 MHz GSM networks. While Europolitan claims only about 150,000 digital subscribers, the operator services more business users, and therefore derives more revenue per subscriber than the others, said Westin.