The Latvian Telecommunication State Inspection (LVEI in Latvian) finally issued the necessary permits for commercial operations to CDMA 450 operator Triatel late Friday. Latvia's de-facto third mobile operator and its first third generation (3G) services provider should start signing up customers, selling phones through dealers, etc. in about two weeks.
The remaining obstacle is getting an interconnect arrangement with incumbent Tele2 and finalizing one with Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT). Tele2 refused to deal with Triatel until all its papers were in order, but LMT has already conducted some interconnect tests.
An interesting issue is whether the frequency use permits include provisions to leave at least one channel free in the 450Mhz spectrum, so that another operator could use it. This appears to have been the case, although this blogger was unable to get details of the permits before the weekend. I did learn that the LVEI was deciding between two drafts for the permits, one of which would allow the frequency use in a manner consistent with other, new operators entering the 450 Mhz market.
Apparently, there is strong interest. According to my sources, incumbent fixed network operator Lattelekom has made inquires with the Public Utilities Regulatory Board regarding some kind of CDMA-450 project. There have also been inquires from other CDMA-450 operators.
A reasonable assumption for Lattelekom's interest is that CDMA450, set up properly, is a terrific solution for the perpetual rural modernization problem. By using this technology for fixed wireless voice and high speed internet (matching wireline DSL), Lattelekom could connect unmodernized rural areas at relatively low cost. Lattelekom officials joke that it would be cheaper to buy apartments or houses in the closest village for some customers than to lay wirelines to their remote homes and farmsteads.
One also wonders, whether, in the interest of cost-sharing, the preliminary feelers extended by Triatel to Lattelekom (and mentioned in this blog)may be growing into some kind of framework for cooperation. It would make sense for Triatel to extend its coverage nationwide using the same infrastructure (base stations, towers, etc.) that Lattelekom needs for reaching the remote rural customers.
I think there is yet another strategy behind Lattelekom's interest in CDMA 450, and that is the eventual switchover to an all-IP based network, where CDMA 450 customers would form the "wireless" part, and urban dwellers with relatively cheap broadband wireline connetions, the majority. CDMA450 could also offer a way to seamlessly move one's connection device (as computing moves from desktop to portable) away from the home or office.
There is certainly more to the CDMA450 phenomenon than meets the eye.