Countries all over the world are now enjoying the delights of new 5G networks, with the technology's promised faster speeds and lower latency as well as fancy new 5G devices. Some markets have of course been slower to jump on the 5G juggernaut – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania among them.
The three Baltic states are now showing real 5G momentum, however. The latest development is that Sweden-based Telia has now decided to launch commercial 5G services in Lithuania ahead of the auction planned for later in 2022 – with the help of dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology from Ericsson.
Waiting for spectrum
Telia Lietuva has been testing 5G technology using non-commercial 3.5GHz frequencies for three years and entered into a strategic partnership with Ericsson to modernize its mobile network and rollout of 5G across the country.
Like its rivals Tele2 and Bite, it has also been waiting for the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania (RRT) to get on with auctioning some 5G-friendly spectrum in the 700MHz band.
The auction is now underway: RRT is inviting bids from auction participants with a deadline of January 25, 2022. Three blocks will be offered at the auction: one 2x10MHz and two 2x5MHz blocks from the 713-733MHz and 768-788MHz radio frequency bands. The initial price is €5 million (US$5.7 million) for the 2x10MHz and €3 million ($3.4 million) for the 2x5MHz blocks.
However, Telia Lietuva appears to have itchy feet and has now activated commercial 5G connections in Vilnius using its existing 2.1GHz frequency band. It is making use of DSS technology to enable the frequencies to support both 4G and 5G connections. The mobile operator said around 20 basestations are now in commercial 5G operation. Including the 3.5GHz test frequencies, a total of 110 basestations support 5G.
Dan Stromberg, CEO of Telia Lietuva, said the move sends an "important signal not only for consumers, but also for equipment manufacturers: 5G technology is becoming more and more mature in Lithuania."
Telia has already deployed 5G in Latvia and Estonia. In Latvia, its 60.3%-owned mobile operator Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT) acquired spectrum in the country's 700MHz spectrum auction last December, and installed 100 5G basestations in 2021. It has also developed a 5G router with technology company MikroTik, and said the first LMT customers in Ādaži started using 5G home Internet services in spring last year.
Telia Estonia launched 5G using DSS technology from Ericsson. In Estonia, a sale of 3.5GHz licenses is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2022 following protracted negotiations at government level.
Meanwhile, Telia rival Tele2 has selected Nokia as its key 5G network partner in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The operator recently said it now has everything in place to begin a nationwide rollout of 5G and upgrade of 4G in Latvia. It also holds frequencies in the 3.5GHz band in Latvia.
- Tele2 picks Nokia for 5G RAN in Baltics
- Telia to sell Latvian B2B business to Tet
- Telia joins growing 5G SA club with Nokia
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading