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Orange Sweden seeks 3G delays, rural release

Telia to blame claim

Orange has applied to vary the terms of its 3G license in Sweden. It wants to extend the roll-out period by three years and it wants permission to reduce poulation coverage to 8.3m from the original requirement of 8.86m (i.e. the entire population, more or less), the FT reports. The effect of relaxation of the latter obligation would probably see a large swathe of rural Sweden blanked from 3G access.

Orange blames the late entry of Telia (through an alliance with Tele 2) for upsetting the Swedish 3G applecart. It says it applied for a 3G license on the basis that there would be four operators in the country. But now there are five players. This renders the original terms of the 3G licence void, the company argues, Dagens Industri reports.

Unlike, say, Germany and the UK, where network operators paid vast sums for 3G licences, Swedish licences were awarded almost free of charge, but with strict conditions attached, the FT points out.

But five operators are two many for a country of nine million, albeit rich and enthusiastic early adopters of wireless technology.

Question now, will Sweden bow to Orange's demands? If so, the other 3G network operators - Vodafone, Tele 2, Telia and Hi3G - will surely follow suit. And if not? Will Orange bail out.

It seems unthinkable, but then who could have predicted that Telefonica and Sonera would have ditched their plans to build a 3G network in Germany, writing off €5.4bn in sunk costs? ®

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