4/14/2010 1:03:00 PM
Election thwarts Digital Britain plans
Plans for a 2011 spectrum auction have been thrown into disarray after the Government failed to push through crucial legislation last week.
The Statutory Instrument (SI) for spectrum liberalisation, which had been making its way through Parliament alongside the Government’s Digital Economy Bill, has been put back until after a new Government comes in on 6 May.
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) spokeswoman told Mobile: ‘The statutory instrument on spectrum modernisation has been laid in Parliament. There will be no debate before the general election.’
The spectrum legislation was part of the Digital Britain report and needed to be voted on. It is understood that both Ofcom and BIS were hoping it would go through before Parliament was dissolved on Monday (12 April).
The timescale for an auction of spectrum, which would include the band that becomes available when analogue TV is switched off, is now dependent on the new Government making a decision.
Meanwhile, networks’ plans to begin refarming their 2G spectrum for 3G services will also be delayed, as the result of the halt of a GSM Directive.
O2 and Vodafone were hoping to begin work on their 900Mhz spectrum, while T-Mobile and Orange were going to start to use their 800Mhz band for 3G after the Ofcom directive came in on 9 May.
Both decisions now largely depend on the incoming Government, which may scrap the Digital Britain proposals altogether.
A Conservative Government is likely to significantly reduce Ofcom’s powers, which could delay the process further.
The Conservative Party spokeswoman said: ‘We opposed the SI that was supposed to pass this because we thought that it needed looking at in more detail and shouldn’t be rushed through. If we get into Government we will look at it again.’
The spectrum auction is set for the first half of 2011. Sources said the date is ‘realistic if the directive is made fairly soon’, but ‘every month that goes by could delay it’.