MP calls for government to intervene in 4G auction process

The 4G auctioning fiasco rumbles on as threats of a costly delay go unheeded in the wake of O2’s spectrum outburst.

Following a vitriolic statement from O2 recently about regulator Ofcom’s stance on the auctioning process for the new generation of mobile broadband, tech-savvy Labour MP Tom Watson asked in a Commons Debate yesterday whether the government would ensure that the process did not run over.

Watson highlighted a recent letter to the Department for Culture, Media and Sports Minister Jeremy Hunt which warned of a “potential loss to the Exchequer of £316 million” because of the “delay to the spectrum auction”.

Watson then went on to ask whether Hunt would ensure that the long awaited 4G network would not be further delayed:

“Given that O2 is threatening legal action against Ofcom that could further delay the auction, will he consider using his powers under wireless and telephony legislation to ensure that this happens sooner rather than later?” he said.

The DCMS minister then went on to reply that the government is “absolutely committed to proceeding with the spectrum auctions as soon as possible”, adding that it will “do everything necessary to make that happen”.

However despite Hunt’s earnest proclamations it seems that there is little being done in reality to ensure that the process runs smoothly.

TechEye spoke to DCMS, which told us that the auction process is “not for us to be involved in” despite growing urgency being felt on the issue.

“The rules are a matter for Ofcom,” a spokesperson said.  “O2 is making noises while the [auction process] consultation is going on, and everybody has a chance to voice their opinion.”

It was not ruled out that the legislation mentioned by Tom Watson would be used following the publication of the consultation.

Ofcom was also reticent to talk of delays to the process following O2’s serious allegations of breaking EU law with its use of ‘spectrum floors’ which the mobile operator contend will see it lose out financially.

“Our timetable hasn’t changed,” Ofcom told us. “We are keen that the process continues as soon as possible so that it can be put to good use.”

“The process has been going on for some time and it is difficult to keep everybody happy.”

Meanwhile O2 stated that it does not want to see the process spill over due to opposition with Ofcom, with a spokesperson stating that “we absolutely don’t want to have a delay to the process.”

O2 was unwilling to discuss the potential for governmental intervention when asked.