In case you needed a reminder of the foundational role played by communications regulators in creating and shaping the business, consider the situation in Norway, where new spectrum auctions and a shift to the next generation of mobile networks literally forced one of the leading providers to sell itself.
Tele2, the smallest of three Norwegian service providers, was forced to sell itself after it failed to acquire key spectrum rights in the spectrum auction in December 2013, leaving it with no path to fourth generation networks.
The deal might have left Norway with two established mobile network operators: TeliaSonera and market leader Telenor. But a new entrant, Ice.net, which won spectrum Tele2 had hoped to win, also is entering the market.
Regulators forced TeliaSonera to extend national roaming rights to the upstart carrier as a way of ensuring there are three service providers with full coverage. Still, the acquisition boosts TeliaSonera market share to about 40 percent, a very close second to Telenor.
To be sure, regulator action was not the only crucial issue. Tele2, arguably because it was the smallest provider, might not have had the financial resources to compete in the auction.
But without access to owned 4G spectrum, Tele2 essentially was forced out of business. Conversely, Ice was able to stake a claim in 4G by virtue of its spectrum winnings.
It might not be going too far to argue that spectrum policy in this case enabled one firm and doomed another.
Policymakers also won other concessions from TeliaSonera to strengthen Ice.net’s position in the market and ensure there still would be three facilities-based providers in the market.