Apart from technical problems, Orange backed up its request to the Swedish telecoms authority (PTS) by explaining that the late arrival of the traditional operator Telia onto the 3G scene in Sweden had changed the terms of the contract and distorted the competition. Orange and Vodafone Sverige both received one of the four (free) Swedish licences handed out by the Government in December 2000, along with Tele2 and Hi3G (Investor, Hutcheson Whampoa). To everyone's surprise, the traditional operator Telia was not awarded a licence. But it later joined forces with Tele2 to operate the licence jointly, and so became in effect a fifth operator in the market. According to Orange, this changed the situation and rendered the contracts signed with PTS null and void.

Orange, whose parent company France Telecom is battling to reduce its colossal debts, was the first 3G licence holder in Sweden to try to renegotiate its conditions with the telecoms authority. The other licence holders were not sufficiently interested to make common cause and so were waiting for the outcome of Orange's attempt before putting in any request of their own.

Vodafone Sverige did just that on September 30. The company, which is 71% controlled by the Vodafone group, but trades on the stock exchange under the name Europolitan Vodafone, asked for another two years in which to build its network, citing difficulties due...

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