The Consumer Communications Panel has called for 4G money to be used to help build rural networks, which sounds eminently sensible but, as BT pointed out last month, would almost certainly be illegal too. The CCP got huge amounts of publicity for its public response to Ofcom's ongoing consultation on the best way to sell off the …
Simple answer ... change the law ???
Just because something is thought to be illegal under *present* law does not mean that it will still be illegal next month, next year or at some other future date.
OK, so changing the law isn't quite as simple as somebody in Ofcom or elsewhere deciding that the law needs to be changed, and nor should it be.
Nevertheless, if the conclusion is that the public would benefit from something that is presently illegal and enough MPs can be convinced of the merits of the change, then such a change is surely possible.
IANAL but I suspect this is *EU* law we are talking about - not so easy to change (although quite easy to ignore, something HMG is no stranger to).
Afaik the telco's have had rollout obligations in the past - O2 had their wrists slapped for not meeting them.
I suspect BT's interpretation is one that is favourable to them rather than one that has been proved in court. As I recall there was a lot of potential bs in BT's submission.
Change the law
"The brevity also removes the need to explain any details, limiting itself to vague calls for Ofcom to mandate that those bidding for 4G licences be obliged to help provide national 2G coverage.
That would, of course, exclude any new entrants from bidding – anyone without an existing 2G network (including Three) would be at a huge disadvantage. Even if such a bidder could license from a competitor, it would put the winner at a distinct disadvantage if they didn't have their own infrastructure."
Surely this can be avoided by, as the author states, the Government using some of the proceeds from the auction to provide the infrastructure? No law change necessary. I would have thought it is the job of Government to provide infrastructure where markets fail (i.e. the greedy bastards can't make a fat profit) by skimming off from the bit they do want to provide to enable the bit they don't to come about. Although in the case of Australia it was initially achieved by Telstra, as the incumbent, having a service obligation.
If you were starting from scratch now it is certainly what you'd have to do as private companies will cherry pick areas. Hence they need to cough up an effective surcharge for the "unprofitable" part to be provided by Government on an equal access basis which can be achieved as the viability can be tweaked as the Government can accept a longer breakeven timeframe (within reason). Companies tend to have much shorter timeframes for their investments.
The infrastructure can then later be sold off to create a monopoly :-)
Author is WRONG
3G licences has an obligation of 80% coverage so no reason why you cannot mandate 100% coverage. Other countries in Europe also mandated high coverage as well. Sweden did a 3G beauty contest that led to very high coverage (old colleagues worked on this bid back in the day)
They would probably do it in a tech neutral manner to just say 100% voice and text coverage and not specify 2G/3G/4G. It may actually be cheaper to do it all in 4G (using the old 2G spectrum) rather than hold on to old 2G as well and run multiple technologies
Damn beat me to it
Although the author is not wrong. He is quoting BT who are wrong.
Regulators/Markets/Law and public services
"If we seriously want national coverage, for voice or data, then better to look to the Australian model, which saw the government building out rural coverage and wholesaling it to the network operators"
Could not agree more with that concept.
And note that that idea would help not only rural coverage but the sad situation that is the London Underground as well. C'mon Boris sort it out!
They should use the money from the auction to provide rural FTTH coverage
The government should follow the Australia approach. Use the money from the sale of the 4G licenses to provide FTTH through the rural areas of the United Kingdom, and what left should be use to increase the coverage in Urban area, to fill in any 2G gaps left by the private companies. An may be projects like the London underground could also receive money.
How ever I suspect George and his cronies have only one plan for this money and that tax breaks come the next election.
I suspect the issue was the cross-subsidy involved. There's no problem with making coverage a requirement of *that* license: the government did exactly that for both 3G and cable TV when those were on offer - I think the problem is trying to tie 4G licenses to 2G coverage, because firstly they are different products, and secondly it would discriminate against both new entrants and Three's non-2G network.
100% might be unrealistic too - individuals on tiny little islands, down valleys etc - but requiring 90%+ population coverage, maybe even 99%, for *service* - which could be met by a roaming agreement with 2/3g operators where needed, exactly as Three did with both Orange and T-Mobile to get a mix of 2 and 3 G service when outside Three's own coverage. As I recall, Ofcom (or Oftel then?) set regulated prices for O2 and Vodafone doing this fill-in roaming, being dominant providers.
I'd like to see the operators working together to fill gaps in coverage - reciprocal roaming (so O2 customers in a gap can roam onto Vodafone's network, and vice versa) - or cost-shared base stations to fill total voids in coverage, perhaps. To be fair, they have actually been shuffling in this direction, starting to share masts, power supplies etc in parts, so they may get there eventually.
Loudspeaker, because out here in the Scottish valleys half the time it's more likely to reach another town than any mobile...
Why are they selling it?
I've always wondered, why isn't the auction for rental for a limited time? Seems like it would be a fairer use of the public airwaves: sell the right to use it for, say, 10 years, the auction is to determine the annual rent. We get a cash stream rather than a one-shot, and if it changes hands, the profit goes to the people rather than the telco.
Or am I just imagining a world in which corporations don't own the government?