Ofcom And Operators Yet To Reach Agreement In Critical UK 4G Talks
Talks between networks and Ofcom over UK 4G services are in the balance
The rollout of UK 4G services could be delayed further unless talks between mobile operators and regulatory body Ofcom result in a resolution.
Ofcom has granted EE permission to launch a 4G network on its existing bandwidth ahead of the auction of 4G spectrum expected to take place later this year. EE (formerly Everything Everywhere, formed from the merger of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK) aims to bring 4G services to 16 cities around the UK by the end of 2012 but rival networks including Vodafone and O2 have been incensed by the decision, with Three refusing to rule out legal action.
The Financial Times reports that although progress between the parties has been made, no agreement has been reached with just one week of negotiations remaining. The government had brokered a one-month long ceasefire in which no legal action could be taken and no 4G network launched.
UK 4G Delays
A source close to the negotiations warned that they were still in the balance and that the brinkmanship between the warring factions has threatened to derail 4G even further. The possibility of litigation to prevent the launch of EE or prevent the spectrum of auction could result in the UK falling further behind other nations such as the USA and Germany.
The government has identified superfast broadband as a way of promoting economic growth, estimated to be around £75 billion over the next decade as well as the more short-term windfall of £4 billion expected to be raised for the treasury from the auction.
Mobile broadband forms part of the government’s wider commitment to ensure that the UK has the best broadband in Europe by 2015. It has pledged £800 million to honour its promise, but has failed to prevent the legal wrangling that has delayed the 4G auction.
The House of Lords has been particularly critical of the government’s strategy and called for more emphasis on access rather than speed.
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