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UPDATE 2nd October is Crunch Day for a UK 4G Mobile Broadband Agreement

Monday, Oct 1st, 2012 (7:49 am) - Score 585

The government’s culture secretary, Maria Miller, will this week make a final play to prevent legal wrangling between the country’s big mobile operators from delaying Ofcom’s auction of superfast 4G compatible mobile broadband spectrum (800MHz and 2.6GHz). The offer of an earlier spectrum release could be on the cards.

Ofcom currently expects to begin the auction in Q4-2012 but the first bids won’t actually take place until “early 2013” and the spectrum itself would then only become available for actual use by the end of 2013 or early 2014 (details)

Unfortunately the regulators recent decision to grant approval for EE to launch 4G one year ahead of its rivals by re-purposing their existing 1800MHz spectrum, which Ofcom ruled would be “unlikely to result in an enduring advantage which distorts competition to the detriment of consumers” (here), promptly triggered rival O2 to lodge a challenge via the Competition Appeals Tribunal (here) and that drew EE into the fight.

The government responded by brokering a month long ceasefire, which was intended to allow time for the operators to find a “collective way forward” and simultaneously required EE not to switch-on its new 4G via 1800MHz service (this was soft-launched just a few days later). But that “cooling-off period” is expected to end on Tuesday 2nd October 2012 this week when a final meeting will be held.

According to the Sunday Times, Miller has drafted a proposal with Ofcom’s CEO, Ed Richards, that could bring forward the expected auction and or spectrum release date in order to satisfy any concerns about EE being given a head-start. This could reduce EE’s advantage but any auction would still take time to complete and thus it’s unclear how attractive such a solution would really be. Failure to reach an agreement is likely to cause yet more delays for the auction as O2 and possibly Vodafone move to begin their expected legal challenge.

UPDATE 2nd October 2012

The BBC claims to have seen a copy of the letter that Ofcom’s CEO, Ed Richards, sent to the Culture Secretary. In it Richard’s states that the auction itself can only be “brought forward by a couple of weeks” but the actual spectrum release (currently due for the end of 2013) could potentially be moved forward to late spring 2013 by speeding up the process of clearing the spectrum for use. This would move everything up by roughly 6 months or more.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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