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Prince of Darkness scares UK mobe firms

Mandy declares agreement imminent on 'issues'

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Heads of the UK network operators met with Peter Mandelson yesterday, with the Dark One stating that issues will be resolved in days - although which issues in particular he declined to specify.

The meeting was attended by the heads of the five network operators with radio-spectrum holdings: Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, 3 and O2. Mandelson claims to be "encouraged by progress in this area" with "remaining issues of detail being resolved within the next few days".

The issues revolve around who owns which radio waves: Vodafone and O2 are clinging onto their allocated spectrum at 900MHz, which T-Mobile and Orange see as a potential addition to the 1800MHz spectrum they had to pay for, while 3 sits with its 2.1GHz holding, hoping that something nice comes its way.

The mess is caused by the evolution of radio spectrum policy, from a time when companies were given frequencies for specific applications, through several incarnations to today's free-for-all in which the highest bidder can do what they like with the spectrum.

But such is the mess that it's hard to think of any solution that won't leave the government facing legal action from the injured parties, let alone encourage investment in the fourth generation networks that are going to be needed to fulfil the Digital Britain promise of 2Mb/sec for all.

It's worth noting that even Lord Mandelson isn't promising any kind of deal in the next few days, only that "issues" will be "resolved". The ball will be summarily kicked back to Kip Meek, the independent Spectrum Broker, whose new proposals we should see shortly. ®

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