Access to high-quality mobile phone services is essential. As well as helping people to interact it is also key for the economy and public services. Mobile connectivity needs to improve if the economy is going to benefit from the potential of the technological revolution we are living through.
Customer choice and reliable coverage should be available everywhere in the UK. Unfortunately many people in rural areas still have little or no coverage.
The regulator, Ofcom, recently consulted on the release of the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands of the mobile spectrum. Several organisations, including ‘Make the Air Fair’, are calling for a cap of 30 per cent spectrum ownership for any one network operator.
This band of spectrum is one of our most significant public assets. How it is auctioned and regulated are issues of critical importance to the economy.
On February 22, the House of Lords debated an Opposition amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would give Ofcom the power to impose caps on licenses where the applicant owns more than 30 per cent of the total useable mobile phone spectrum in the UK and where Ofcom believed this could damage competition. However, this amendment was not accepted.
The government has failed to foster a competitive communications market. More competition means better service, more investment and lower prices; and Ofcom should be supported to make sure that happens. Licensing conditions for the spectrum auction must be ambitious and tough. These auctions should benefit everyone through better coverage and contribute to our digital economy, rather than simply raising revenue or providing benefit to the mobile network operators.