The Communication Workers Union has welcomed industry regulator Ofcom’s plans to auction 4G mobile spectrum and is urging the government to use money raised through the sale to fund rollout of next-generation broadband UK-wide. Current funding arrangements CWU say are insufficient to deliver broadband to all areas of the UK and ‘fall far short of investment in comparable developed countries’.
The Ofcom plans will be the largest ever single auction of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK, equivalent to three-quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today. The 3G auction which took place in 2000 raised around £20 billion and CWU believes the new sale could raise a further £4bn or more. This money could take the pressure off BBC funding cuts by using a different stream to fund broadband and leave licence fee and digital switchover money where it was meant for.
Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “We welcome the Ofcom sale of 4G spectrum but urge the government to seize this opportunity to use the funds as a welcome windfall to inject much-needed cash into superfast broadband infrastructure across the UK.
“We believe that a government-led programme of investment in superfast broadband infrastructure is essential to prevent the UK slipping behind our European and global competitors. The internet is worth £100bn to the UK economy and that will continue to grow as e-commerce expands. However, the £830 million committed by Government until 2017 is a long way short of what is needed to take superfast broadband to all homes and businesses across the UK.
“The current plan will leave remote areas in places such as East Anglia, Scotland and Cumbria with no rollout plans. Residents and businesses in these areas will lose out unless funding arrangements change. It also robs the BBC of funds instead of allocating new money for this important economic investment.
“Early investment in universal broadband will pay dividends many times over so we urge swift action to put the UK at the head of the superfast broadband revolution.”
Ofcom has stated that the new 4G spectrum is essential to meet the UK’s rapid increase in mobile traffic, fuelled by the growth of smartphones and mobile broadband data services such as video streaming, email, messenger services, mapping services and social networking sites. All of these services depend on spectrum – the airwaves that carry information between customers’ mobile handsets and the internet.