Spectrum must be ‘urgent priority’ for new government

Reviving the UK’s floundering spectrum modernisation programme must be an urgent priority for the new government if the country is to avoid being left behind in the race towards next-generation mobile services, according to research firm, Ovum.

A draft statutory instrument, designed to level the playing field and give operators clarity when bidding for new spectrum bands, was dropped in the rush to get legislation through the last session of parliament.

It failed to adequately consider the impact of the proposed joint venture between T-Mobile and Orange, and the divestiture of spectrum these operators offered to make in order to win regulatory clearance at EU level.

Ovum believes that in order to reduce the likelihood of legal challenge, the new government should reconsider the statutory instrument and consult again in the next parliament.

Matthew Howett, principal analyst at Ovum, said the UK risks falling behind other countries unless a solution to the ongoing spectrum re-farming dispute can be found quickly.

He said: “Ensuring adequate and timely access to spectrum will be one of the most critical issues facing the next government.

“The need to find a quick resolution to this dispute shouldn’t be underestimated. The next generation of mobile services, (most likely to be LTE), is widely expected to initially use spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands. As a result of this dispute, both of these are currently unavailable in the UK.

“The result is that operators will be forced to delay investments that could benefit consumers in terms of new services and applications. The delay will also prevent operators from realising important cost savings from greater network efficiency.

“Germany, where this spectrum auction is already underway, is set to be a benchmark for the rest of Europe. Many other countries are also moving forward with awarding this band and some definitive plans are already in place. The UK can’t risk being left behind.”

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