BT has threatened to take legal action if the UK government pushes ahead with plans to liberalize mobile phone spectrum as part of its Digital Britain blueprint.
The carrier has sent business secretary, Lord Mandelson, a letter raising serious objections over government appointed independent spectrum broker Kim Meek's approach and plans, threatening a judicial review if they are implemented.
BT is concerned that the government's pledge to introduce universal broadband access of at least 2Mb a second in time for the London Olympics will unfairly impact on spectrum sharing arrangements across the UK’s five mobile phone networks. The universal broadband plans also require the sale of new space on the spectrum that will be liberated when the analogue TV signal is switched off in 2012.
Among Meek’s proposals is the suggestion to carry mobile broadband on the spectrum that carriers were awarded in the 1980s and 1990s for voice and text services. As compensation the five networks would have their 3G licences, which are due to expire in 2021, extended indefinitely.
BT believes the carriers are being given an unjustifiable government subsidy by having their 3G licences extended.
"The proposal to extend current 3G licenses indefinitely represents a gift of several billion pounds from the UK taxpayer to the mobile operators and is a barrier to competition and innovation in the mobile market," said a BT spokesman.
BT has demanded that the spectrum to be auctioned in a way that is “fair to all operators and stimulates competition in the market for both existing operators and new entrants."
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has already extended the deadline for consultation on Meek's plans until early February in a bid to placate the carrier.