British cellcos face six month delay for spectrum auction

12 Apr 2010

With the British government’s decision to postpone a decision on the auction of spectrum suitable for high speed data services, former regulatory official Kip Meek has claimed that a sale may now not take place until autumn 2011 at the earliest. According to Bloomberg, mobile network operators including O2 UK and Vodafone UK face a delay from the previously expected end-2010 date that regulator Ofcom last month revealed it planned to start the auction by. Commenting on the auction’s prospects, Meek has claimed that any incoming government will likely re-examine the matter once again, noting: ‘It will be looked at afresh and therefore there will be a delay … I would say six months additional delay and that’s what I would push for. The auctions could take place in the autumn of 2011.’

As reported by CommsUpdate last month, proposals for the spectrum were sent from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to Ofcom, detailing plans for several spectrum bands including 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2600MHz. A number of changes have been made to original proposals put forward by Meek in May 2009, following both feedback from a consultation on the plans, alongside the impact of the recently approved merger between mobile operators Orange UK and T-Mobile UK. The key alterations made included a requirement that successful bidders for two spectrum lots in the 800MHz band roll out coverage equalling 99% of the UK population, while the proportion of spectrum that any individual operator can own was increased, from 2×60MHz to 2×90MHz.