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Mobile operators hope to thwart 4G plans

15 марта 2010

Telecommunications companies are threatening to launch a legal challenge to the government’s plans to increase the availability of internet access on mobile phones.

O2 and Vodafone are considering legal action after ministers finalised their proposals to end a bitter and long-standing dispute between mobile phone operators over radio spectrum.

The government is hoping that parliament will approve a law before the end of the month that will enshrine the plans for a large auction of spectrum in the first half of 2011. But O2 and Vodafone are threatening to launch a judicial review of the plans that might delay the auction.

If the auction timetable slips, it could delay the start of mobile services based on fourth generation mobile technology that will enable faster web surfing on handsets compared to 3G. Mobile operators in the US and Japan are starting 4G services this year.

Legal action by O2 and Vodafone could also hamper government efforts to ensure that all homes have internet access – some households in remote areas will have to rely on wireless access because of cost.

Last week, the government announced its solution to the mobile operators’ dispute over spectrum ownership. The scheme is part of ministers’ Digital Britain initiative, and is based on a report last year by Kip Meek, a former senior official at Ofcom, the telecoms regulator.

The mobile network operators – Telefonica’s O2 UK subsidiary, Vodafone’s British business, France Telecom’s Orange UK, Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile UK and Hutchison Whampoa’s 3 UK – expressed broad support for Mr Meek’s proposals.

However, the proposals had to be modified after France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom announced plans to merge their British mobile businesses. The merger was approved by the European Commission this month, on condition that the combined Orange/T-Mobile entity sell 25 per cent of its spectrum at the 1800 MHz bandwidth. This spectrum is the most suitable for mobile services based on 4G wireless technology called LTE.

O2 and Vodafone are concerned at how the combined Orange/T-Mobile entity has agreed with the Commission that it would sell its 1800 MHz spectrum to a single bidder. It means that either O2 or Vodafone will most likely buy the spectrum. One of the two companies will miss out.

They are therefore demanding that ministers alter their solution to end the operators’ spectrum dispute.

Vodafone said: “Fair allocation of spectrum is vital for our customers and for competition in the UK’s mobile industry. There needs to be an urgent re-examination of what can be done to amend the current proposals.” O2 expressed similar views.

BT is also considering legal action because it objects to plans to make the mobile operators’ 3G operating licences indefinite.

The Department for Business, overseeing the plans, said it had no intention of amending the proposed law.


Источник: Financial Times

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