5/20/2009 11:59:00 AM
Digital Britain spectrum cap announced
Government advisor Kip Meek’s vision for a Digital Britain could include broadband speeds of 4Mbps – twice Lord Stephen Carter’s minimum speed for universal coverage.
Broadband speeds may even reach 50Mbps in some parts of the UK.
Meek (pictured) outlined his proposals for the allocation of spectrum ahead of the publication of Carter’s Digital Britain report, last week (13 May).
Among Meek’s proposals was the recommendation that 900MHz spectrum holders Vodafone and O2 be banned from buying any of the 800MHz band, which will be available in 2010 when analogue TV is switched off, unless they relinquish some of their current spectrum.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile and Orange will not be forced to give up any of their 1800MHz band, but will be capped on how much of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz (also available in 2010) they can buy. 3 and the remaining operators will be able to bid freely for the 800MHz, 2.6GHz, or any spectrum that the other operators choose to give up.
Sources said there could be a ‘first mover advantage’ in terms of bidding for any potential spectrum, as it will be impossible to refarm the 900MHz band until T-Mobile and Orange can secure some of the 800MHz spectrum.
Meek said: ‘It would be very intrusive to try and eliminate that [first mover advantage] altogether,’ adding that ‘there is no solution that creates a completely level playing field’.
Meek is aiming for three winners of 800MHz and two main players at 900MHz, totalling five blocks of spectrum. He added: ‘Those operators need not be the existing five networks.’
The proposals have now been submitted to the department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) in time for the report, published on 16 June.
The Government can then legislate to impose a solution that would be regulated by Ofcom. Meek said if all goes well, the ruling will be welcomed by the industry.
Operators divided by outcome of report
Vodafone and O2 responded well to the proposals, with Vodafone saying it is ‘pleased’ that the report ‘confirms there is no case for the release of the 900MHz spectrum’.
By contrast, T-Mobile said it ‘strongly’ believed that the 900MHz band needs to be reallocated in order to support a continued competitive market in 3G services.
Orange said it is ‘reviewing’ the proposals, but indicated its belief that they only provided a ‘partial solution’ to spectrum issues.
3, the only one of the big five able to freely bid for any spectrum,
said: ‘We‘re broadly supportive and await developments.’
BT, which now has its own mobile offering, said: ‘The report seems too inclined towards the interests of the incumbent mobile operators rather than encouraging innovation, competition and choice into these important markets.
‘Spectrum has immense commercial value that can deliver important economic benefits for the country. We believe its allocation and regulation should take into consideration the wider interests of the communications market as a whole.’