In breaking news, Equiniti, which was appointed by Ofcom to make way for the new services in the 800MHz band, is preparing to sell equipment into the spectrum which taxpayers paid them to clear, writes Paul Watson.
Equiniti is now gearing up its operations to release up to 80,000 channels for use in UK spectrum. Responding to concerns about possible market impact and the likely route for proceeds resulting from the sell-off, Ofcom stated that the re-sale is subject to a condition informing purchasers that the equipment in its present state will be illegal in a year's time.
An Ofcom spokesperson added: "The majority of any proceeds from sales of equipment is used to offset the cost of the funding scheme, therefore reducing the burden on taxpayers. Any items that are sold are done so clearly on the condition that by 1 October 2012 any UK purchasers either dispose of the equipment under European Waster Electrical and Equipment Directive regulations or convert it to use Channel 38."
The British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG) has repeatedly warned Ofcom about the damage that resale of this equipment could cause to manufacturers, wireless microphone users, and taxpayers. Now, it is now concerned that Equiniti's actions may ultimately affect the attractiveness of the 800MHz band to mobile broadband companies.
Outrage and disbelief greeted the news as it was revealed during the final day of the PLASA show (Wednesday 14 September). In a statement, BEIRG stated the actions will "grossly distort the UK microphone sale and hire market – and will go against the very purpose of the taxpayer funded scheme".
Following his meeting with Equiniti, Ron Bonner, from PLASA and the BEIRG Steering Committee, stated: "Equiniti has been paid from our taxes, through Ofcom, to administer the PMSE funding scheme. Equiniti has not paid for the equipment itself – the public paid for it. Now they want to sell the equipment on for profit, whilst damaging microphone manufacturers' and the taxpayers' chance of getting the highest price for the 800MHz band when it is auctioned next year.
"Ofcom needs to step in now to stop this sale, and ensure that the original purpose of the scheme is not undermined by the re-release of surrendered equipment into the UK spectrum."
Sennheiser was among the manufacturers to respond to the news with an expression of shock. Phil Massey, Sennheiser UK general manager, told PSNE: "Sennheiser UK shares the deep sense of surprise currently being experienced by its customers on receipt of this shocking news. We believe that the re-sale of this surrendered equipment, particularly back into the UK market from where it has just been removed, runs contrary to the spirit of the funding scheme. Sennheiser UK will continue to support BEIRG in its ongoing efforts to highlight to the UK Government, and to Ofcom, just how damaging this course of action will prove to be."