Thursday 17 March 2022

Iceland's Small but Advanced Mobile Networks

In our earlier post we pointed out that even though Iceland is a Nordic country, it is often ignored in comparisons to other Nordic countries. This is most likely due to small population as compared to the other Nordic countries. 

Iceland has one of the smallest yet most progressive telecom markets in Europe. The country in 2020 became the top in Europe for fibre penetration. It aims to provide a fixed broadband service of at least 100Mb/s to 99.9% of the population by the end of 2021, an ambitious target by international standards and one which it is likely to achieve given the progress which operators have made in extending the reach of fibre networks.

There is effective competition in the mobile and broadband markets, with a number of players having emerged to challenge the dominance of the two leading operators Síminn and Vodafone (Sýn) which have interests across the telecom sectors. The new entrant, Nova, has become the leading player in the mobile market and has quickly expanded its presence in the fixed-line segment, particularly in fibre.

The telecom market has shown some resilience in recent years following the significant economic downturn a decade ago, supported by continuing investment in mobile and fixed-line broadband infrastructure by operators and well as by the government’s Telecommunications Fund which is supporting Next Generation Access networks, particularly in rural areas.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 900 and mostly 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started on all three providers on 800 (B20) and on 1800 MHz (B3) in the Reykjavik area. It's available on all providers for prepaid without a surcharge.

The island has a very good coverage on 2G and 3G given its topography and low population. Síminn is the market leader with the best coverage, followed by Sýn (still good) and Nova in 3rd place (mainly in the southwest).

Síminn (aka Landssíminn) is the old state telco which still has the best coverage and speeds throughout the country and is market leader in Iceland at slightly higher rates. LTE coverage is at 98% of population in 2017 on band 3 /1800 MHz only: 

Ericsson has signed a new five-year contract Síminn. The collaboration entails further development of Síminn's nationwide 4G network and accelerates Síminn's 5G expansion. 

The journey to 5G began when the companies conducted 5G trials as a part of a network modernization initiative.

Síminn will deploy 5G on 3.5-3.6GHz mid-band spectrum. The mid-band 5G deployment significantly enhances throughput to unlock the full potential of 5G. It can also be the key to unlocking a huge range of new opportunities in areas such as gaming, transport and manufacturing.

Síminn aims to reach nationwide coverage by the end of 2022. Síminn 5G's deployment  will begin by using of one of the legacy bands for low-band 5G, which enables wider coverage.

Iceland’s telecoms watchdog the Electronic Communications Office of Iceland (ECOI) has opened a public consultation on its plan to renew Vodafone Iceland’s (Syn’s) concession in the 3600MHz band until 31 March 2023. The ICOI received an application and a timed development plan from Syn for the renewal of the spectrum, with Syn committing to build 5G network in ten rural areas of the country (nine of which currently have no 5G access), deploy 40 5G transmitters and provide 5G to over 20% of the population. Interested parties are given until 24 February 2022 to comment on the plan.

Nova is the smallest provider and still reasonable, if you stick mainly the population center around Reykjavik, where it offers 4G/LTE too. It's very popular among exchange students flocking the country, because it gives out 1000 minutes of free calls and 500 free SMS per month among Nova customers. 4G/LTE is given out where available on LTE bands 3 (1800 MHz) and 20 (800 MHz).

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