The communications regulator (whose chief executive is Ed Richards, pictured) has revealed a delay to the sell-off of bands including 800MHz, which has historically provided a home for PMSE applications, writes David Davies.
The auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies was originally due to take place early next year. But following a “number of substantial and strongly argued responses” to a consultation effort, the sale is now expected to occur towards the end of 2012.
The regulator – which has said it will apply restrictions to the amount of spectrum individual firms are able to purchase – pointed out that the postponement may not affect the date when 4G services become available as the relevant spectrum will not be free until 2013 anyway.
4G services are currently the subject of a 200-customer trial by Everything Everywhere and BT in St. Newlyn East and South Newquay, Cornwall.
The delay to the 800MHz/2.6GHz auction is likely to further reinforce the impression of a process that has been extremely protracted and occasionally bordering on the tortuous. PMSE (Programme Making & Special Events) users, in particular, are still reeling from the news that equipment surrendered under the Channel 69 funding initiative is to be resold by administrator Equiniti.
Ofcom – which appointed Equiniti to run the PMSE scheme – has robustly defended the controversial decision, telling PSNE: “The fact is that Equiniti holds a certain amount of surrendered PMSE equipment which can legitimately be used in the UK until late next year and, if sufficient safeguards against unlawful use after that are in place (which they are), it represents value for money for taxpayers and a proper option for legitimate PMSE users to make that available.”
Leading manufacturers and distributors, however, have gone on the record to condemn a practice that many feel will distort the UK wireless systems market.
“Equiniti’s plans to resell second-hand equipment back into the UK marketplace is counter-productive given that the primary goal of the funding scheme was to help clear the 800MHz band wireless devices,” says Peter James, managing director, Shure Distribution UK. “All of this [previously surrendered] equipment has a very limited lifespan as the entire 800MHz band needs to be cleared by 1st October 2012. This action by Equiniti increases confusion and uncertainty around spectrum allocation in the UK and will likely lead to the increased population of the 800MHz band at a time when it should be reducing.”