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Mobile operators jostle for digital space

24 апреля 2009

Mobile phone operators are pressing the government to hand them some of the radio spectrum freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television.

Operators led by O2 are calling on ministers to allocate some of the so-called digital dividend spectrum to the mobile industry so it can help the government achieve its goal of making broadband available to every home by 2012.

O2 's proposal might also form the basis of a deal to end a dispute between the mobile operators over spectrum ownership.

Lord Carter, communications minister, in January set a deadline of April 30 for the operators to settle their differences over spectrum, or face a government-imposed solution to the dispute.

He asked Kip Meek, a former senior official at Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, to broker a compromise between the operators.

They have been squabbling for years over spectrum that is suitable for providing wireless broadband to rural areas that currently do not have high-speed internet access.

This spectrum, found at the 900 MHz bandwidth, is owned by O2 and Vodafone.

Orange, T-Mobile and 3 would like access to some of the 900 MHz spectrum, but O2 and Vodafone are reluctant to give it up.

The impasse risks frustrating the government's goal of making broadband a universal service.

Given the impasse, O2 has urged the government to consider a new approach, under which the operators could bid for spectrum currently used for analogue TV.

This spectrum, found at the 800 MHz bandwidth, is also suitable for providing wireless broadband to rural areas, and O 2 wants Ofcom to ensure that the mobile operators can buy a large chunk of it. Broadcasters also want the spectrum for their digital TV channels.

Mr Meek is looking at capping how much 800 MHz and 900 MHz spectrum each mobile operator could own, so no single company emerges dominant, according to people familiar with the situation. Mr Meek declined to comment.


Источник: Financial Times

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