Tele2, the Swedish-owned mobile telecommunications operator, has quietly launched UMTS or 3G services in Latvia, limited to one base station in its offices in the Pardaugava district of Riga. The fact that the base station was operational was confirmed by Tele2's PR representative, Evita Matisone.
She confirmed that Tele2 had started the service in compliance with the licence it bought for LVL 5.8 million in 2002, but had made no public announcement. "Next year, when we are required to have coverage of 30 % of the population by the end of the year, we will announce something," Matisone said. The PR consultant explained that there appeared to be a very limited market for 3G services in Latvia due to the small number of available UMTS/GSM phones and their relatively high price.
Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT), the leading operator owned by TeliaSonera announced the start of its 3G services aty a press event on December 13. LMT has installed a base station in its own office building and the new 26 story offices of Hansabanka. At the same time, LMT announced it would be launching EDGE, a higher-speed data service that runs on the current GSM network. A number of mid-range business class handsets now come with EDGE capability and LMT apparently used the press event to announce it was starting EDGE in January as to start up its limited UMTS service.
Your blogger was in the US at the time of the press event and cannot relay any first-hand information. However, the activities of both operators show that they are being very cautious with expanding their UMTS services, something that those vying for the new "third" licence should take into consideration.