19 December 2003

Gerrit-Jan Zwenne

On 15th December 2003, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs ("Economische Zaken") announced that he has agreed to the grant of two frequency licences, in the 2.6 and 3.5 GHz band, to be used for wireless local loop or WLL-purposes.

The frequency allocation process started on 1st September 2003. From that date, applications could be submitted for two national licences. Subsequently, a so-called “closed bid auction” was held, in which five parties actually made a bid. One licence for the use of frequencies in the 2.6 GHz band has gone to Versatel for EUR 760,002 and one other for frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band to Enertel, which will pay EUR 4,000,075 for the licence. The licences will expire in 2008 and 2015 respectively.

Wireless local loop is a digital radio system which enables the creation of fixed wireless broadband connections between a community antenna and a number of fixed, installed, decentralised points. The community antenna in its turn is connected to a switch.

The WLL-system has been developed particularly for connecting company switches on, for example, company premises, to fixed networks without cables having to be put in the ground. As a result, these connections are much more flexible and more easily realised. As soon as the community antenna has been installed, a small antenna can quite simply be placed with a new customer. That customer may be an undertaking with its own switch, but also, for example, a GSM operator that wants to connect to a base station. The service area of one WLL base station is restricted to a distance of some kilometres from the base station for urban application to some tens of kilometres in rural areas.

For the time being, with the granting of the WLL-frequency licences, an end has come to a series of allocation procedures, including those for commercial radio broadcasting and UMTS. To date, all important allocation procedures gave rise to extensive legal actions, in particular by parties that did not succeed in obtaining a licence. According to the Ministry, already a couple of parties have raised objections against the licences granted. This is probably the first step in administrative legal actions, hence our expectation that the WLL-procedure will frequently be in the news in the years to come.

Important - The information in this article is provided subject to the disclaimer. The law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly.