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PR(03)03: EFTA Surveillance Authority requests Iceland to allow the licensing and introduction of third generation mobile communications systems (UMTS) on its territory

7.3.2003

The EFTA Surveillance Authority has delivered a reasoned opinion to Iceland for that State’s failure to comply with the so-called UMTS Decision. The Authority concluded that Iceland is in breach of its obligations under the EEA Agreement, since it failed to put in place a scheme for the licensing of third generation mobile communications systems and to allow the deployment of such systems from the beginning of 2002.

The UMTS Decision (128/1999/EC) requires the EEA States to take all measures necessary in order to allow for the coordinated and progressive introduction of UMTS services on their territory by 1 January 2002 and, in particular, to establish an authorisation system for UMTS no later than 1 January 2000. In February 2002, the Authority opened infringement proceedings against Iceland for the latter’s failure to comply with the Decision. In its reply to the Authority’s letter of formal notice, Iceland admitted that it had not taken any measures to implement the UMTS Decision. In addition, the Government of Iceland put forward that it considered it sensible to delay implementation of the Act due to delays generally experienced with the rollout of third generation mobile networks all over Europe and the dreadful general State of the telecommunications sector.

However, the observations made by Iceland have no bearing on that State’s obligations to fully and timely comply with the provisions of the UMTS Decision. Since Iceland has not taken any implementation measures in this regard, the Authority has concluded in a reasoned opinion that Iceland is in breach of the EEA Agreement.

Compliance with the UMTS Decision does not require Iceland to issue licenses as such, but it obliges it to have the necessary legal, administrative and regulatory framework in place to allow interested parties to obtain an authorisation for the operation of a third generation mobile network, if they so request, within a reasonable timeframe. The Authority will closely monitor the suitability of the procedures and the framework to be adopted by Iceland, in order to ensure effective access to the market for economic operators. Special attention will be paid to the expedited handling of procedures once a manifest interest in obtaining UMTS licences in Iceland has emerged.

In its reasoned opinion, the Authority requires the Government of Iceland to take all necessary measures to comply with the opinion within two months. If Iceland does not comply with the opinion within this period, the Authority may bring the matter before the EFTA Court.

For further information please contact Mr. Jónas Jónsson  on tel. + 32 (0)2 286 18 60.

10 March 2003




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