Jeremy Hunt calls for end to legal action over 4G auction

A leaked speech has shown that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will push mobile operators to stay away from legal action over the 4G auction process.

Following a recent announcement that Ofcom will push back the auction process to mid 2012 as it continues to work on auction terms, Hunt has urged operators to stop squabbling and get on with it.

The speech demands that “we press on as quickly as possible with the 4G auction”, mentioning that Sweden and other European nations have completed their own bidding processes a long time ago.

It is said that Hunt will argue that any delays to the issuing of 4G licenses will not be in the “national interest”, and warn mobile operators away from litigation.

Hunt will demand mobile phone operators “put aside competitive differences” and “work together… to make this happen”, writes the Telegraph.

A host of mobile operators have been dragging their feet over the process, with legal threats ranging from the thinly veiled to threatening to bring the matter to an EU court as O2 has done.

But as MPs have highlighted the delays are getting ridiculous, and are likely to cost the country millions of pounds.

Interestingly though the government has been reticent to actually stick its neck out and get involved. Though Hunt has not advocated any legislative measures be taken against mobile operators to ensure that the auction goes ahead, it does appear to be a significantly more forceful demand top get the ball rolling.

So attempting to tackle the subject head on at the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention is certainly an step up from DCMS ministers fielding questions in Parliament on the subject.

Indeed up until this point DCMS has been very happy to downplay its role to us and keep the focus on Ofcom. In fact DCMS has told us repeatedly that this is “not something for us to be involved in” so we reckon this seems like something of a change of heart.

We approached O2, one of the firms which has made legal threats in the past, for a response to the Minister’s speech. O2 was did not want to comment directly on Hunt’s speech but highlighted that there were still certain of Ofcom’s proposals which it does not agree with.

“There were elements of the Ofcom’s initial proposals that we support and other elements where we believe Ofcom needs to simplify,” we were told in a statement.

“This is still part of the consultation process and we are currently waiting for Ofcom’s views on the number of responses they received earlier this year.”

“At this stage we see no reason why a successful auction cannot be delivered next year as planned.”