logo.gifChina has holidays — but someone forgot to tell Smart Telecom, the Irish telco, and so it lost its 3G licence.

The whole confusing affair is currently being played out in Ireland's High Court, where Smart is now trying to get back its licence.

Smart
Telecom, like a growing number of European operators, has partnered
with Huawei, China's fast-growing equipment supplier and a thorn in the
side of western equipment suppliers.

As a condition of the 3G
licence, Smart Telecom had to provide €100m in performance-related
bonds and it got Huawei, its chosen supplier for the putative 3G
network, to arrange one of them, worth €50m.

According to the
company, the bond was ready to file by the required deadline, January
30th, but the regulator made last-minute changes. Smart Telecom needed
to urgently get in touch with ICBC, the bond's underwriter and China's
largest commercial bank.

Now, January 30th coincided this year with the start of China's new year holiday and so the bank's offices were closed.

Result: Huawei missed the deadline and the disputed licence was instead awarded to arch-rival Eircom.

The
regulator contends that Smart Telecom lost the licence because it did
not provide evidence that the Chinese bank was prepared to underwrite
Huawei's bond. Smart says the regulator moved the goal-posts under
pressure from Eircom, which lost out in the original licence beauty
contest.

I'll leave the court to deliberate on just what
happened but find it revealing that the Irish company's whole
convergence strategy — combining fixed and mobile networks — appears
to have come crashing down because of problems communicating with a
Chinese bank. Lessons to be learnt, to be sure.

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