Broadband and TV fight for frequencies

The rising popularity of mobile broadband is leading to a fight between phone operators and television companies over Sweden's airwaves.

Around 450,000 Swedes are expected to have mobile broadband by the end of the year. Now phone operators are hoping to take over frequencies left vacant by the switch-off of Sweden’s analogue television network.

Johan Lindgren, CEO of the Swedish branch of Norwegian telecoms operator Telenor said that mobile broadband using 3G connections took off suddenly during the summer.

“I have never known such rapid developments in this sector as are happening at the moment,” he told news agency TT.

But TV companies are putting up a fight to keep control of the frequencies eyed by mobile operators. They want to use them to broadcast digital terrestrial television.

The final decision on the question lies with Infrastructure Minister Åsa Torstensson.

Speaking to a conference in Stockholm on Tuesday, Torstensson said the “crunch question” was “how much [frequency space] should go to TV and how much can be used for mobile services such as mobile broadband.”

TV chiefs are pressuring the government to stick to its original intention to reserve the network for television.

But Telenor’s Lindgren describes that scenario as “the worst thing that could happen.”

“The government has a unique opportunity to provide rural areas with mobile broadband,” he said.

All sides stand to gain billions of kronor through exploiting the network.

Torstensson says she hopes that both sides can be satisfied.

“I believe that there are good conditions for terrestrial digital TV to continue to be an attractive platform while at the same time we get mobile broadband at low cost,” she said.