Phone Firms Cry Foul over New Airwave Auction Plan

Article excerpt

Byline: SIMON FLUENDY

TELECOMS regulator Ofcom has angered mobile phone companies by calling for a new auction of radio channels for advanced services.

At an auction in February 2000, five firms paid [pounds sterling]22 billion for licences to operate third-generation mobile services, such as video calling and high-speed internet.

But Ofcom now says that more channel space - known as spectrum - should be handed out, and has suggested that another auction be held.

The extra spaces are called 'guard channels' by the mobile companies. They were planned as gaps to stop calls on rival networks interfering with each other.

But according to Ofcom, technology is now good enough to prevent this becoming an issue and the watchdog says it must ensure that the spectrum is taken up.

'It is our duty to ensure efficient use of spectrum,' an Ofcom spokesman said. 'An auction is one way to ensure that this happens.' If an auction were held, buyers would not be allowed to set up nationwide networks, like operators such as Vodafone, mmO2 and Hutchison Whampoa's 3. …