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CMA says 4G mobile broadband delay could pave the way for roaming

Thursday, October 13th 2011
Delays to the 4G auction could encourage Ofcom to enforce network sharing.
CMA says 4G mobile broadband delay could pave the way for roaming
Some positives could come from the delay of the UK's 4G mobile broadband spectrum auction, according to the Communications Management Agency (CMA).

Many commentators and industry figures have hit out at Ofcom's decision to launch further consultation, meaning the sell-off of additional airwaves is now not expected to take place until the fourth quarter of 2012.

One critic, Open Digital, claimed delays to the rollout of super-fast mobile broadband services could cost the UK economy as much as £1 billion.

However, director of regulatory affairs at the CMA David Harrington insisted the new timetable may have its advantages.

Speaking to UKAuthority.com, Mr Harrington said the delay offers an opportunity to add in a condition regarding the sharing of services between rival network operators in a bid to improve coverage across the country.

National roaming would be a "huge benefit" for residents in rural communities, he claimed, allowing mobile broadband users to search for the carrier that offers the strongest signal in any given area.

Although Mr Harrington accepted consumers may have to pay a small premium to take advantage of this facility, he argued the cost would be "peanuts" when compared to the added convenience it would bring.

Everything Everywhere partners Orange and T-Mobile currently share services, but other providers may be less keen to do so, citing commercial and technical issues.

But Mr Harrington refused to accept this argument, noting that roaming already exists in other parts of Europe.

"If you get on the ferry in Calais, you have the ability to choose any French network you want," he explained. "And the Olympics in 2012 will bring a huge influx of foreign visitors who presumably will be able to choose any network here - but we still can't."

The CMA would like to see Ofcom demand that winners of the spectrum auction allow open access to their networks, Mr Harrington added.

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