Thursday, February 12, 2009

Government moves to settle mobile broadband spectrum dispute

Lord Carter, the communications minister, has today called a meeting with the UK's five mobile phone networks as he tries to thrash out a deal that will help achieve his ambition of universal broadband access by 2012.

The former head of regulator Ofcom is attempting to get the UK's two original mobile phone networks, Vodafone and O2 – formerly Cellnet – to share a slice of the airwaves they were given in the 1980s, so that rivals T-Mobile, Orange and 3 can use it for mobile broadband services.

Lord Carter, in his initial Digital Britain report last month, said the mobile phone companies must thrash out a compromise on sharing the airwaves by the end of April or the government would impose a solution.

The slice of the airwaves controlled by O2 and Vodafone is important to the introduction of universal broadband because it is at a low frequency, which means signals can travel over longer distances.

O2 and Vodafone, understandably, are reluctant to give up their spectrum at the 900 MHz frequency unless the government offers them a sweetener by giving them a slice of the airwaves freed up by the switch-off of the analogue TV signal.

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