Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Digital Britain: My reaction to the reaction

I thought I'd pick out a few comments on the Digital Britain interim report that I commented on last week.

Kevin Russell, 3 UK: "The opportunity here for people in the U.K. is clearly set out in this interim report. What is lacking is clarity as to if this will be driven by access and quality of service or the desire for Treasury income. I believe the former provides the best way forward for all," he said in a statement. A 3 spokesman explained that selling off spectrum in a public auction could have a negative impact on the U.K. mobile industry. "The hunger from operators for bidding on spectrum is debatable, and a new player could come along, build out another network and cause even more fragmentation in the market," he said. (Additional comment from the ever-excellent Total Telecom).

Here I'll (mis)quote Mandy Rice-Davies: "well, he would say that wouldn't he". It comes as little suprise that a mobile network operator would favour a government approach that neither prioritises generating funds for the treasury nor looks to increase competition in the market. The fact is that there is unlikely to be much appetite for either at the moment. Market maturity and economic blight means that M&A is more likely than a sixth player wanting to enter the UK market. It's also unlikely that an auction will raise significant funds. For the UK government, imposing strict universal service obligations is about the best they can hope for.

Further comment from 3 indicate a belief that 900 MHz spectrum should be equally allocated between the existing operators for UMTS. Again, no surprises here. Given that they currently hold no spectrum here and it will be an excellent way of improving in-building coverage it's little surprise that 3 is all for dividing up the spectrum.

Jim Hyde, T-Mobile: "We welcome this insightful report, which identifies the issues we all need to address to make Britain a winner in the digital world. It clearly understands the contribution mobile has already made and the even more exciting potential mobile broadband offers. It also puts its finger on a key current roadblock – the inability to use all existing mobile spectrum for 3G and to do so on an equitable, competitive basis. We have long argued for this. It is important economically and socially. It would enable the more rapid achievement of the widest high speed mobile broadband coverage and the much more efficient use of the industry's spectrum. We look for ward to working with Lord Carter and his Digital Britain team and with Ofcom and all operators to resolve this rapidly."

Jim hits the most important nail on the head. We'll be sad to see him go. He has clearly identified 900MHz refarming as a big immediate stumbling block to mobile broadband, which it is. Everyone wants to use 900MHz for UMTS. That has never been an issue. The issue is how? Who gets what spectrum, where? In its interim phase this review doesn't address that issue. It will have to be resolved.

And I've scoured the net for comments from any other pertinent parties but no-one seems to be saying much.


  1. If you want to comment on the Digital Britain report on a per paragraph basis, you can find it at

  2. If I have red correctly, the Digital Britain report claim for a industry agreement of how sharing the 900 MHz spectrum band. Is that right? And what is going to happen with the original proposal of Ofcom made in September 2007?
    Thanks Mr Matt Hatton for your wonderful blog! AS a Ph. D. Researcher in the world of the technoeconomic analisys of mobile broadband, I have been looking forward for this kind of blog for a long time!