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Russia Clutters Finnish 4G Spectrum

Michelle Donegan
Wireless Bits
Michelle Donegan
4/29/2009

8:55 AM -- Finnish mobile operators aren't going to get access to the highly sought after digital dividend spectrum for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services anytime soon, thanks to a Russian aeronautical navigation system that uses the same frequency band.

Whenever Russian aircraft are flying close to the Finnish border, the navigation system, which uses the same band, can cause interference to Finnish mobile systems, according to Pasi Toivonen, senior spectrum advisor at the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (Ficora). This makes it impossible for Finnish mobile operators to use the spectrum.

The digital dividend band in Europe is 790 MHz to 862 MHz, and it is what will be leftover from TV broadcasters' switch from analog to digital transmission. European mobile operators eye this spectrum for LTE services because the low frequency enables better coverage, and that means fewer base stations and lower deployment costs.

Germany already has plans in the works to auction this spectrum later this year. In Finland, the band has been set aside for mobile use, but Ficora cannot allocate it because of this issue with Russia.

This matter is on the agenda at the next World Radiocommunication Conference meeting in 2011, but Toivonen says it is hoped that a solution can be found earlier. This is a problem for any country that borders Russia, he notes.

But Finnish mobile operators are not without low-frequency spectrum options for LTE, far from it. The regulator just awarded additional spectrum in the 1800 MHz band to the three mobile operators Telia Company , Elisa Corp. , and DNA Oy , making Finland the first country in Europe to award this frequency band for LTE. The operators, each of which now has 2x25 MHz blocks of the 1800 MHz frequency, use this frequency for GSM services, but Ficora has given the OK for 1800 MHz, along with 900 MHz, to be used for UMTS and LTE services. (See Finland Awards 4G Spectrum.)

According to Ficora, "fast 4G networks can be provided with a substantially wider coverage at a lower cost than commonly used 2,600 MHz networks, which require a considerably larger number of base stations."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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