Will UK 3G licence holders feel liberated soon?

Come along DTI, show us you care...

Come along DTI, show us you care...

To say the telecoms industry in Europe has strained under the burden of most countries' 3G licence auctions' eventual price tags is something of an understatement. There are pundits who even argue the billions that poured from a buoyant yet over-confident sector into government coffers was behind the wider economic downturn. Certainly the amounts raised in some countries - the UK and Germany especially spring to mind - have hamstrung mobile players. Yet in the UK, the government has seemed quite unfazed by industry pleas. However, today the European Commission said it is starting discussions on how trades of 3G spectrum licences can be harmonised across Europe without overzealous regulatory stick waving. This may mean UK 3G licence holders find themselves brandishing new, more favourable terms and conditions within the next year. However, all this hangs on the UK government and its ability to admit things could have been done better. If the government acts sooner rather than later, the five licence holders in the UK could find themselves in a healthier financial position. The European Commissioner's office told silicon.com it is entirely up to member states to review and make adjustments to licensing conditions. Is this government likely to give telcos a helping hand? After all, the taxed future revenues of successful mobile companies are worth having - this is the view certain governments of countries in Scandinavia and Asia have taken. Our money is on the government waiting too long before it decides to take a decision. If one of the famous five licence holders were to fall off the edge into telco bankruptcy it might throw out a lifeline. We'll be astonished if anything happens before then. But hope to be proved wrong.