Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on the UK's mobile operators to stop delaying the 4G spectrum auction.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged UK mobile network operators not to stall the much-delayed 4G spectrum auction. Photo credit: Conservative Party
The auction is already almost four years late, having originally
for September 2008. Much of the delay has been caused by operators
going to court to stall the sell-off. In a
speech to the Royal Television Society on Wednesday, Hunt said "we
must press on as quickly as possible with the 4G auction".
their auction in 2009, Germany last year, Italy is doing theirs
this week and France will finish theirs this year," Hunt said. "Mobile
phone operators must put aside competitive differences and work
together in their common — and our national — interest to
make this happen."
Hunt added that "super-fast mobile" is crucial to Britain's future. It is needed if the UK is to be
in the "fast lane" when it comes to the internet of things, he said, in a
reference to the billions of devices that are becoming
The 4G auction will sell off 72MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band and
190MHz in the 2.6GHz band. The most likely
technology to use that spectrum is the 4G technology LTE, which is is around 10 times faster than today's HSDPA technology.
While there is no litigation under way at the moment, in the last few years, there have been some court cases over the auction. The disputes have centred on
whether operators holding 2G voice and SMS spectrum will be able to 'refarm' it for 3G mobile broadband. Operators have argued that until they know the answer to this, they cannot decide on the amount of their bids for new mobile broadband spectrum.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom
gave spectrum refarming the green light in January, and in March
out the rules for the upcoming auction, with the aim of holding it by mid-2012.
emerged at the start of September that O2 and other companies have made veiled threats of fresh litigation. Although all operators
are running out of mobile broadband capacity, further delays would
particularly harm Three as it is the only network operator in the UK without 2G spectrum to reuse.
Ofcom said it hopes the spectrum will be allocated as soon as possible, so that operators will be able to introduce 4G-based mobile broadband services when the frequencies are turned over to new use in 2013.
"Given the ample opportunity that we will have given the MNOs [mobile network operators] and
others to explain their views and concerns to us, we would hope that
all stakeholders will accept the outcome of the discussions around
this process without further challenge, and allow the UK's citizens
and consumers to enjoy the benefits of 4G services as soon as
possible," a spokesperson for the regulator told ZDNet UK.
The amount of 4G
spectrum being released in the auction is 80 percent greater than the 3G spectrum
that the government sold
off for a staggering £22.5bn in 2000. The mobile industry has regretted for many years the way bidding
spiralled out of control for 3G, and examples such as the
German 4G auction in May 2010, which netted around £3.7bn, suggest bids will be much lower this time round.
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