Sweden pulls 700 MHz auction over security concerns

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Sweden pulls 700 MHz auction over security concerns

Spectrum needed for military and emergency services.

Sweden has cancelled an upcoming spectrum auction for radio frequencies in the 700 MHz band citing national security concerns.

In a surprise announcement on October 31, the Swedish government said the 694-790 MHz spectrum band would continue to be used for permitted TV transmissions until May 31 2018. 

It had decided in 2014 to auction off the 700 MHz spectrum on December 1 this year. The comparatively low-frequency spectrum is deemed attractive as it has long reach and good object penetration, thus requiring fewer transceiver stations in the network.

Citing an unspecified change to the country's national security situation, digital economy minister Peter Eriksson said it was imperative that Sweden's defence forces and emergency sevices be able to communicate effectively and securely with each other. 

Eriksson had earlier championed the use of 700 MHz spectrum to improve broadband coverage in Sweden, which has set a goal of 90 percent of the country's households and businesses having access to at least 100 Mbps connections by 2020.

The spectrum auction faced opposition from the national security police, Säpo, which expressed concerns to the government over what it said was "the risk of vital infrastructure ending up in foreign ownership" not in Sweden's best interests.

Australia auctioned off its own 700 MHz spectrum in 2013, with a 30 MHz band left unsold.

It recently revealed it planned to put the remaining spectrum up for sale early next year, after rejecting a private $594 million bid by Vodafone in October.

Like in Sweden, Australian emergency services and police had pushed for access to the 700 MHz band, a bid that was backed by the Senate.

But their moves were opposed by Telstra and other Australian telcos, as well as the ACMA, who said emergency services should instead shift to the 800 Mhz and 4.9 GHz bands.

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