E-minister has another stab at selling wireless licences

How long d'you reckon before they give them away?

Ole Patricia Hewitt, E-minister, has "announced proposals" today to get rid of the unsold licences in the farce that was November's fixed wireless auction.

When the (much-delayed) auction was kicked off on 10 November, the government was expecting to net around £1 billion from the sale of 42 licences throughout the UK. The 28GHz licences would allow for fixed-point but wireless Internet access. It ended up with a measly £36.5 million, 26 licences without even a bid and egg all over its face.

Government egg-minister Patricia didn't do a bad job once the shambles was complete but neither would she talk to the press. But that's all in the past - it's the new year! And Patricia has got some proposals for us. What she proposes is that companies buy the licences.

Brilliant!

She may have overlooked the fact that the high reserve price put on the licences stopped people from bidding last time when she proposed that companies pay the reserve price for the licences. And if more than one person wants the licence, then they'll have an auction to decide who wins it.

Genius!

It's good to see that Pat and the DTi weren't idle over the Christmas holidays. We have no idea where the inspiration for this remodelled system came from - probably something cuddly like a civil servant's young, fair-haired daughter saying: "Well Daddy, maybe last time they were too busy with other things. I'm sure they'll buy them if you offer them again."

Ironically, little Lucy may actually be right. We spoke to a number of companies last time and asked them why they hadn't bid for licences. Some had heard about it far too late in the day. Some were put off by the auction approach. Others didn't like the way the DTi had been so unhelpful (doing the old salesman trick of intriguing people by being offhand). Oh, and the niggling thing about the price.

These licences are actually pretty good but the government should learn a bit of humility and point that out to people rather than pretending it doesn't care. ®

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