Feeds

4G-auction rural notspot scheme would actually be illegal

Would mean lockout, massive subsidy

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

Comment 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 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands in next year's mega-auction. That response calls for the 4G licences to have coverage obligations extending 2G networks into the remaining not-spots, but last month BT's response to the same consultation explained that such an obligation would amount to an illegal subsidy, not to mention that it would block new entrants from bidding next year.

The CCP's response (PDF, short and sweet) is a media-friendly single page, compared to BT's 43 pages and Telefonica's 101-page epic, ensuring the CCP response was more widely read. 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.

BT pointed out that any coverage obligation could also fall foul of competition law as an illegal subsidy. A licence with coverage obligations will be less valuable, effectively taking money from the UK treasury and using it to build a privately-owned mobile network, which isn't allowed.

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, but that would take government action rather than fiddling around with the auction conditions.

Complete national mobile voice coverage would be a nice thing, but there are better ways to get it than simplistic calls on the national regulator which don't stand up to a moment's examination. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Turnbull: NBN won't turn your town into Silicon Valley
'People have been brainwashed to believe that their world will be changed forever if they get FTTP'
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.