A ‘toxic combination of regulatory timidity and powerful self-interest’ is holding up the development of the mobile and fixed line markets, says a business lobby group.
The Communications Management Association (CMA), whose members (mainly large businesses) buy some £13bn of communications products and services a year, has issued a savage attack on the regulator, Ofcom and the UK’s biggest communications companies.
Describing the UK’s approach to high speed broadband as “languid”, the CMA said: ‘The outcomes fall a long way short of policy priorities for UK economic growth, the needs of citizens and communities and the localism implicit in the Big Society agenda.’
It said the ‘creeping delays to the 4G spectrum auction” were irritating business users. 'We see this as a toxic combination of regulatory timidity and the powerful self-interest of licence holders,’ it said in a statement.
The CMA’s comments come two days after culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was taking too long to build new high speed networks. ‘Competition is the biggest driver of investment both at the retail and infrastructure level. But I do not believe the market is working as well as it should,’ he told the Royal Television Society.
The CMA said the UK was unlikely to have widespread 4G mobile access until mid to late decade. ‘Yet there is no evidence that mitigating technology such as national roaming on 3G is being actively considered by the regulator,’ it said.
It called for Ofcom to mandate access sharing as a mobile licence obligation.
‘The regulator could thus eliminate once and for all the disease of ‘roaming’ from the mobile communications landscape, whilst reducing notspots, improving customer service and reducing required capital investment for operators collectively,’ it said.
The CMA said the 4G roll-out in Sweden had been fast and effective because the regulator there had enabled an automated brokerage for dark (unlit) fibre to provide high speed backhaul from 4G cell sites.
This let the mobile operators offload traffic via Wi-Fi onto higher quality fixed networks, reducing congestion in the air traffic.
Click here for Ofcom's response