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MPs criticise network operators for hampering 4G spectrum auction

Monday, November 7th 2011
The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee declared the mobile networks have failed to cooperate with Ofcom's 4G spectrum auction plans.
MPs criticise network operators for hampering 4G spectrum auction
Ofcom's attempts to organise the UK's 4G mobile broadband spectrum auction have been hampered by network operators Everything Everywhere, 3 Mobile, O2 and Vodafone, MPs have stated.

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee (CCMSC) declared the regulator has "on the whole" handled the issue well, despite the contentious and commercially sensitive nature of the process and a general "lack of cooperation" from the four carriers.

According to 3 Mobile, its three rival networks are keen to delay the auction, which will sell off spectrum that can be used to roll out super-fast mobile broadband services.

However, O2 argued that plans set out by Ofcom to guarantee 3 Mobile is able to acquire a chunk of the newly freed-up airwaves are tantamount to state aid, making them illegal under EU law.

Despite these complaints, the CCMSC agreed in principle with rules and conditions laid out by Ofcom for the sell-off, but claimed the watchdog could be more ambitious with its proposals regarding minimum levels of coverage.

Ofcom's measures include a condition that mobile broadband access should be extended to at least 95 per cent of the population, but the committee declared the obligation should be set at 98 per cent.

John Whittingdale MP, chair of the CCMSC, said the regulator has had a tough job in dealing with the various "competing and polarised interests" affected by the auction.

He claimed "constant disagreement and special pleading" from the network operators have hampered the auction, which has been delayed until the final quarter of 2012.

"We believe that the basic rules for the auction which Ofcom has laid down are sensible and fair, and that further delays will result in the UK falling further behind in this vital area. The auction needs to proceed as soon as possible," Mr Whittingdale remarked.

The politician added fast broadband access will become increasingly important in the coming years and communities left without coverage will be at a significant disadvantage.

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