Thursday 7 March 2024

Kosovo Getting Ready to Launch 5G Mid-2024

Kosovo is Europe‘s youngest nation after gaining independence from Serbia in 2008. They have benefited from financial and regulatory assistance as part of the EU pre-accession process. The EU remains Kosovo’s main trading partner and its main source of foreign direct investment. The economy is significantly driven by trade with Germany and Switzerland, where most expatriates live and work. Remittances from such workers form an important part of household incomes.

The telecom sector has been liberalised, and legislation has aligned the sector with the EU’s revised regulatory framework. Measures have also been adopted relating to competition and to facilitating the market entry of new players. Nevertheless, poor telecom infrastructure has meant that fixed-line penetration remains low by European standards.

The mobile sector accounts for most telecom lines for voice services, as well as the greater part of telecom revenue. Kosovo has two mobile operators: Vala (Kosovo Telecom) and IPKO.

Kosovo’s state telecom operator Telecom of Kosovo, a business unit of Post and Telecom of Kosovo trading as Vala, is the largest mobile operator in Kosovo. It is also the fastest mobile operator in the country.  

Vala uses the following frequencies: 2G: 900 & 1800 MHz, 3G: 900 MHz & 2100 MHz,4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3). Vala started with 3G coverage on 2100 MHz in Pristina in 2014. Vala’s 3G network covers Pristina and the surrounding area, including Pristina International Airport, Vushtrri, Mitrovicë, Ferizaj and Gjilan, whilst launches are also planned in Prizren, Gjakova and Suva Reka. Vala also has 4G/LTE coverage on 1800 MHz (Band 3), which works in many areas of Kosovo.

IPKO is owned by Telekom Slovenije (Si Mobitel) from Slovenia, hence IPKO's mobile phone number calling prefix was +386 (for Slovenia) before fully migrated to the new Kosovo code +383. Telekom Slovenije has stopped the sale of its 100% stake in Kosovo-based operator IPKO in 2020 and IPKO will remain part of Telekom Slovenije Group.

IPKO has 2G on 900 MHz and 3G coverage on 2100 MHz. Its population coverage on 3G is 90% and on 4G/LTE is 84% in 2017. It claims to have the largest 3G and 4G coverage and WiFi network in the country in 2021.

Regarding the development of 5G: Telecom Kosovo has been awarded a 2×10MHz block in the 800MHz band (811MHz-821MHz/852MHz-862MHz) alongside a 1×100MHz block in the 3.6GHz band (3,510MHz-3,610MHz).

IPKO has picked up spectrum in the 2×10MHz in the 800MHz band, (791MHz-801MHz/832MHz-842MHz) plus a 1×100MHz block of the spectrum at 3,410MHz-3,510MHz. Both licenses are valid for 20 years and are technology-neutral.

According to the regulator, an additional 90MHz block of 5G spectrum in the 3,710MHz-3,800MHz range has been awarded to the Next Generation Networks Institute, with the goal of supporting the deployment of local private 5G networks.

IPKO revealed it completed 5G testing in July 2023, where it was able to achieve speeds of more than 1.2Gbps. However, the operator didn't disclose the vendor it worked with.

Telekom Kosovo signed a deal with Ericsson Nikola Tesla, a Croatian subsidiary of Ericsson, to modernize the operator's mobile network, including 5G broadband, noted Broadband TV News in December of last year. As per the latest news, Vala will start delivering 5G services from mid-2024.

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