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WiMAX licence owner wins right to be a mobile operator

Celebrates by dissing the competition

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Telecoms watchdogs at Ofcom have agreed to let UK Broadband, the company that owns the 3.5GHz spectrum licence, supply WiMAX service to mobile devices as well as for access for homes and offices.

A ruling published by the regulator yesterday overturns restrictions on the applications of the spectrum. UK Broadband also won the right to boost the power of its signal for longer range transmission.

In its statement, Ofcom said: "Removing restrictions on the licensee will benefit consumers, encourage competition, optimise use of the spectrum and is therefore in the interests of citizens and consumers. Ofcom also believes that the likelihood of interference to other users is low."

UK Broadband's parent company, the Hong Kong comms giant PCCW, bought 13 regional licences in an auction in 2003, but has yet make an impact and only provides service to parts of the Thames Valley. The piecemeal licences were consolidated as a single by Ofcom in March.

In a celebratory email to staff seen by The Register, UK Broadband's operations chief Keith Hawkins took a pot shot at Freedom4, the Pipex subsidiary that owns the only other WiMAX licence issued so far.

Hawkins wrote: "All this means that there is even more chance of 3.5 GHz becoming a popular band for WiMAX.

"It is becoming clear that 3.4 - 3.6 [GHz] is great spectrum to own – (and having it above 3.6 GHz is less good - i.e. Pipex/Freedom4 in the UK - as getting the mobility and required power levels may well be a struggle for them, with potential satellite interference issues)."

Freedom4 refused to respond to the criticism. Its licence does not currently allow it to provide WiMAX to mobile devices. It currently offers service in a few cities including Milton Keynes and Manchester.

A Freedom4 rep told us that it is in ongoing discussions with Ofcom about its licence, but said the firm would not release any details. ®

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