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Ofcom misses deadline: but on Sitefinder, not 4G

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Ofcom hasn't slipped the dates on the UK's 4G auctions, at least not yet, but that's not stopped various media titles reporting that things are already going awry.

The story popped up last week in Mobile Today, and was repeated in yesterday's Guardian, claiming that Ofcom had pushed publication of the auction details back to November and the auction itself to the middle of next year. This would indeed be slippage if these weren't more or less the dates proposed by the regulator in March.

To be accurate, the March proposal (133-page/843KB PDF, as surprisingly interesting as it was in March) said that Ofcom would publish a statement on the auction "in the autumn", and that the auction itself would take place in the middle of next year – following initial submissions from prospective bidders in the first three months of 2012.

November is, by most definitions, still part of the autumn (winter running December/January/February) and glancing out of Vulture Towers I see nary a leaf has fallen and the sun is still shining. I've a farming mate who is adamant we've still got two weeks of summer to go (he has a harvest to get in, you understand). That might be excessive, but it isn't winter yet.

We're not saying that Ofcom will get the auction done on time: it's perfectly possible that timescale will slip. It seems likely that the proposals (when published) will be challenged by one or more of the operators, quite possibly in the UK courts, but while we're not adverse to laying into the UK regulator for failing to keep deadlines, we like to wait until those deadlines have actually passed before getting out the knives.

One such example would be the improved Sitefinder – the public database of all licensed transmitters in the UK – which we were promised would be online in February this year, and were then told wouldn't become available until the summer.

It might still be autumn in the UK, but whatever my mate says, the summer is well in the past, so rather than accusing Ofcom of slipping against dates that haven't yet arrived, we'll stick to complaining about deadlines that have actually passed: it's not like there's any shortage of those. ®

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