Colt lacks plan for its £1.5m mobile licence

Telco is sitting on a costly mobile licence but admits it doesn't know what to do with it, while BT's £275,000 licence also gathers dust

Colt has admitted it has no idea how it will use a telecoms licence it bought last year at a cost of over £1.5m.

The UK-based telco splashed out £1,513,218 in May 2006 for the licence, which would allow it to provide mobile services to businesses. But nine months on, the company has admitted it has no specific plans to use the licence.

"We have not identified something specific that we are about to do [with the licence] in the near future," a Colt spokeswoman told ZDNet UK. "We had the opportunity to buy it, and we did. We would obviously expect to do something with it," she added.

The licence covers the 1781.7MHz-1785MHz and 1876.7MHz-1880MHz spectrum bands, which sit at the edge of the band used for GSM mobile services today. Ofcom, which awarded the licences, has dictated that they can only be used for low-power services, such as private GSM networks in office buildings or campuses.

But the Colt spokeswoman could offer no details on what the company's plans may be, other than saying the licence could possibly be used to extend the telco's hosted voice offering. She added that Colt could offer no timescale on when it would use the licence. Asked what the proposition would consist of, she said: "I'm not sure at the moment."

BT also has no current plans for its licence, for which it paid £275,000. A BT spokesman told ZDNet UK: "There is nothing I can say for definite. We are evaluating it, but there are no firm plans."

In contrast, several rival licensees are starting to make progress. Each licensee paid considerably less than Colt, with licences going for as little as £50,110, or just 3.3 percent of Colt's £1.5m.

Private Mobile Networks (PMN), a Yorkshire-based business, has the most developed proposition. PMN's offering consists of providing a number of cellular base stations linked to an organisation's PBX. This will allow staff to make and receive calls from their office extension number via their mobile phone handsets anywhere in their office. In this way, staff can be contacted on their mobiles using their extension number, while only paying for outgoing calls at landline rates.

Last week PMN said it had upgraded its offering to include mobile data, running at up to 90Kbps using GPRS and EDGE, as well as voice connectivity. PMN is in talks with the UK and US armed forces for the provision of such a system.

Another licensee, Watford-headquartered Mapesbury Communications, currently has a trial offering similar to PMN's, but only supports voice services over GSM.

But the licence-holders are facing stubborn resistance from the traditional mobile operators. T-Mobile has so far refused to provide interconnect to some licensees, meaning that currently some users are unable to receive calls.

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