Ofcom runs into double trouble

The UK's regulator Ofcom has been swamped by interest in the GSM spectrum it plans to recycle and has gone back to the drawing board. It seems that the regulator is the only party to be surprised by the level of interest, which has sent it scurrying back to consult further.

This is good news for the UK's original two mobile companies, O2 and Vodafone, who have criticised the scheme since it was mooted, on the grounds that it would have an adverse effect on the quality of their networks. Although of course, it could have something to do with the fact that Ofcom's plan is to enable third parties to use the spectrum to offer other services.

Ofcom's plan to auction the 2.6GHz spectrum that will be made available in 2012 as a result of the switch from analogue to digital TV has also run into trouble. The head of Ofcom Ed Richards stated that the auction would go ahead for the so-called digital dividend this summer as planned, even though most of the spectrum won't be available for another four years.

Critics say this will just encourage those with the deepest pockets - mobile operators, say - to buy it simply to prevent new service providers and competing technologies from using it, thereby defeating the whole point. Mobile operators paid a total of £22.5 billion (28.04 billion) for 3G licences back in 2000 - an investment any of them are yet to recoup.