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Operators beg for help

Mobile firms go to EC for help with 3G rollout

The GSM Association, which represents European mobile operators, yesterday met up with the European Commission to discuss how local governments can better help operators in rolling out 3G (third generation) networks.

The meeting was attended by 18 of Europe's leading mobile network operators, including Vodafone. Its aim was to resolve some of the bottlenecks operators are facing in rolling out 3G services.

"We want the Commission to speak to local governments on our behalf to address the problems we are having," said Robert Mourik, spokesman for Vodafone Brussels and chairman of the GSM Regulatory Working party.

"Many of [the problems] are technical and we as operators need to sort these out ourselves. But others are caused by government interference and restrictions," said Mourik.

The European Commission sets operators guidelines over rolling out networks. While on one side the Commission is telling operators their network must be available to 99 percent of the country, on the other side the local government is placing restrictions on where base stations can be placed.

"It's like being between a rock and a hard place. We are trying to roll out networks but the government doesn't want us to and has created base-station free areas, which makes things impossible for operators," added Mourik.

The Commission, headed by Erkki Liikanen, agreed that member states should refrain from imposing any additional licence conditions, especially those that could be costly.

Operators are desperate to create as much leeway within the 3G licence regulations as possible.

"It is difficult for politicians and governments who are backing IT and 3G but also don't want to upset local interest to resolve all these issues," added Mourik. "But we need to work together to make this easier for everyone."

Other areas discussed, included the WHO (World Health Organisation) controls over mobile emissions. The Association asked the Commission to create a universal platform to ensure all member states are following those guidelines.

"Our emissions are way below those recommended, yet we still come up against member states who are trying to place further restrictions on us," said Mourik.

The Commission will be meeting with member state representatives at the end of June in Seville to discuss the GSM Association's requests.

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