Wednesday, April 11, 2012

OFCOM - possible licence obligations for coverage 95 and 98 per cent

In January the Office of Communications (OFCOM) launched the second consultation on the licence conditions for spectrum for mobile broadband. It had raised the option of increasing the population coverage from 95 to 98 per cent of the United Kingdom for at least one licence.

The OFCOM Advisory Committee for Scotland suggested that 95 per cent coverage obligation for each of the four UK nations would be a better target, achieving slightly more than 98 per cent of the UK, but doing so more evenly. This would raise the likely coverage in Scotland from 90 to 95 per cent, a substantial increase on the existing 85%. Unfortunately, it provided no indication of the likely extra costs.

The Orkney Community Planning Partnership wrote it was:

concerned about the scope of Ofcom’s proposals to extend 4G mobile coverage and fears it may further increase the unacceptable gap in provision between small remote populations, like Orkney, and those of urban UK and more accessible rural areas. This would have a detrimental affect [sic] on Orkney’s social and economic sustainability...
It argued for 98% of all sub-regional UK populations at NUTS Level 2. Once again there was not indication of the cost, of the likely revenues from the services nor even of the costs of the detrimental effects.

The Scottish Government:

And to reassert a further point from our response to the first consultation, we believe that the obligation should go further than be merely a 98% UK average but should apply to each constituent UK nation, and furthermore, every local authority area within each nation.
(See also response to combined award.) No indications are provided as to the additional costs, revenues or the social or economic benefits.

OFCOM now faces the challenge of producing an impact assessment with some of these proposals, estimating the considerable costs of extending coverage and the likely revenues.

Interestingly Sinn Fein called for devolution of telecommunications to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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