• November 30th, 2011
  • Dafiq Hussein

Talking to an industry gathering in Brussels this week, Ed Richards, the UK Telecoms Regulator, claimed that mobile phone networks were “holding back innovation and hampering growth” with continuing threats of litigation, which is preventing the auction for 4G from going ahead.

The original auction date for 4G bandwidth rights was delayed in 2009 by legal battles and now it is being held up again as, according to the Guardian, O2 and Vodafone claim that Three and Everything Everywhere are getting preferential treatment.

With three networks in America already using 4G technology and Germany releasing their first 4G service in December 2010, Richards has suggested that the UK is lagging behind other countries and may end up being the last European nation to hold a 4G auction.

Due to the growing popularity of Smartphones, both Ofcom and mobile network providers are keen to launch 4G services, which can serve wider areas and provide faster browsing speeds than the current 3G, but with further delays it is predicted that the UK will not see its first 4G signals until 2013.

The hope for Ofcom is that the 4G auction will raise around £3bn for the Treasury, which will be a huge addition to the income already brought in by mobile networks, overseas calls providers and UK landline telecoms companies, but with the continuing legal battles delaying proceedings, they may have to consider handing back the 4G rights to politicians and further delaying the release of the service in the UK.

Frustrated with the continuing delay of the 4G auction, Richards was quoted saying “I think some major companies will have to reflect upon whether they have inadvertently jeopardised the benefits of objective, independent regulation in this area by virtue of their willingness to game the system”.

He continued by stating “I am sure legislators would be all too willing to accept an argument which returns power in such matters to politicians, in light of the apparent inability of the current model to make timely decisions where the national interest is at stake.”

The current auction rules are now being scrapped after the latest round of protests and the hope is that an auction all networks can agree to will take place in 2012, but with so many companies jockeying for position in the 4G market, it is hard to see a quick resolution.