Shadow Minister slams costly 4G delays

The government’s handling of the 4G auction debacle has been attacked by Shadow Minister Helen Goodman, with claims that delays are costing the economy up £1 million per day in revenues.

Labour MP Goodman roundly criticised a lack of support for Ofcom to deliver an auction back in 2010.  In a statement released today, she claimed the government “decided not to give Ofcom the back up to go ahead with the sale of 4G”.

Highlighting “disappointment” at the further 18 months it has taken to get to the auction process, which is expected to take place at the end of this year, Goodman said the decision was hitting the country in the pocket.

With the country counting the pennies, losing the sum of “almost £1 million in revenue a day” is inexcusable, she said in a statement seen by Computing.

Furthermore she remarked on the “shameful situation” of being one of the last to rollout high speed 4G, which many countries such as Sweden already have.

She certainly has a point. With Britain home to ARM, whose chips power so many mobile devices, it is a shame that we will not see high speed mobile internet on a large scale until roughly 2015.

Indeed, a report released last year by the Open Digital Policy group claimed that the cost of delaying 4G would amount to £732 million each year.

According to Andrew Ferguson at Thinkbroadband, the government has a lot to answer for with the delays. “Questioning of why the auctions have been so delayed, and why we continue to have a slow style consultation processes, rather than simply getting on with the auction and actual network implementation is something that must be done,” he told TechEye.

“We are told by the current Government that the e-economy is important to the UK, but the level of investment and political pressure applied to firms and regulators to ensure infrastructure projects such as the 4G roll-out do not seem to carry the same level of importance as road and rail infrastructure projects.”

While some have given estimates of the cost for delaying 4G auctions, Ferguson says that it is difficult to assign a specific price tag, but there is no denying the impact.

“Pinning an actual amount per day on something like this is very difficult,” Ferguson said. “The delays in 4G roll-out mean that people coming to the UK, both competitors, media, visitors and business people with 4G dongles and phones will find the lack of network surprising I am sure.

“This may then impact on the impression of the UK as a place to do e-commerce, leading to less investment and businesses locating elsewhere.

“Another less mentioned problem with the 4G roll-out delay, is that we are in the process of improving broadband for all via BDUK projects, and the lack of actual 4G roll-out means that it is hard for local authorities to actually use it as part of their roll-outs.”

Ferguson continued: “Evidence of some of the problems are the way that firms like O2 are embracing Wi-Fi for off loading data from its 3G network in the most crowded areas. 3G does not have the capacity per mast to cope with large masses of people, such as you already get in London and other urban centres.

“The mobile providers are engaging in trial roll-outs to learn about the performance of 4G networks, for example its use in Cornwall as part of their broadband improvements, but being trials the impact will be limited.”