SPT Telecom, the Czech Republic’s fixed line operator, plans to launch Europe’s first GSM Groupe Speciale Mobile-based wireless local loop operation in June or July, based on technology from LM Ericsson Telefon AB and Nokia Oy, says Huub Booij, network project manager for the operator. SPT is considering fixed GSM as a complementary and temporary […]
SPT Telecom, the Czech Republic’s fixed line operator, plans to launch Europe’s first GSM Groupe Speciale Mobile-based wireless local loop operation in June or July, based on technology from LM Ericsson Telefon AB and Nokia Oy, says Huub Booij, network project manager for the operator. SPT is considering fixed GSM as a complementary and temporary solution to a lack of fixed line capacity. With it, we can provide coverage in rural areas and concentrate on modernising our wireline network, Booij told attendees at The Adam Smith Institute’s seminar on Mobile Communications in Central and Eastern Europe in Paris last week. He said the project will be launched after July 1, which is the deadline for the Czech mobile operators to fulfill their coverage obligations. In the best case scenario, we could start operations in August, he said. I haven’t seen any GSM local loop projects in Europe, said Ian Rathmell, industry analyst for Dataquest Europe, based in Staines, UK. Nokia and Ericsson both have fixed GSM cellular products, but they have not been around for more than about 18 months or so.
By Marsha Johnston
The project, says Booij, is aimed at providing telephony for the rural areas of the Czech Republic where SPT has not already planned to install new fixed network facilities. It should provide 20,000 new lines out of the 470,000 additional lines SPT has committed to provide in 1997, he said. For the new lines provided by fixed GSM, says Booij, SPT will not have to pay years of interest payments on investing in laying cable for a new fixed line network. And interest rates in the Czech Republic are at 9%, he noted. He said SPT, which holds 51% of the country’s largest mobile operator, Eurotel Praha, would have Eurotel increase its network capacity to support the number of users it expects to have in 2000, at the same time making it more powerful for indoor users with smaller cells. For that accelerated capital investment for new base stations, SPT is prepared to pay a share of the interest, as well as a usage fee, he said, but would not divulge the total amount of the investment. Booij also said the operator has not ruled out buying GSM air time from the Czech Republic’s second operator, RadioMobil, as., as well, in order to get cheaper rates in areas where both RadioMobil and Eurotel have coverage. RadioMobil, however, would not confirm that it is in discussion with SPT. With the project, SPT is committing to use fixed GSM service for just five years, Booij said, to see whether it will continue to provide enough cost-effective capacity for future services, such as data and Internet use. In fact, says Dataquest’s Rathmell, bandwidth limitation is one of the disadvantages of fixed GSM. Mobile GSM voice connections are already not great, at between 16-32Kbps. If you’re looking strictly at providing POTS – plain old telephone service, it’s fine, but if customers start wanting to put even fax-modems on the lines, SPT will have to do something else. Something else, he said, could mean putting in a lot of software and extra processing power for the base stations and the terminals, to be able to recognize a 64-Kbps connection. Furthermore, he said, the cost per user would probably go up because SPT would not be able to put as many Internet surfers on the system as it can rural voice telephony customers.