THE WRAP: Ofcom edges towards 4G refarming; Taiwan targets 4G sale within two years

Regulation, license auctions and refarming. Take your pick of the topics from this week, as all three dominated the headlines across the globe.
In the UK, regulator Ofcom revealed it is open, in principle, to a proposal from EverythingEverywhere to utilize its current 800-MHz and 1800-MHz spectrum for 4G services.
The regulator states the proposal doesn’t seem to raise any competition concerns, but has opened a month-long consultation into the plan just to be sure. Depending on the outcome, the country could get its first commercial 4G network by the year-end – a prospect that is currently unlikely due to delays in auctioning 4G spectrum in the market.
Besides the faster rollout refarming would enable, the move would also result in better rural coverage for 4G – something Ofcom stipulated in amended auction rules issued late last year.
Refarmed spectrum will also feature in Taiwan, which this week set the goal of auctioning 4G spectrum by June 2014 after the government green-lighted the National Communications Commission’s plan to sell spectrum in 700-MHz of 2.6-GHz bands.
That spectrum will be coupled with re-deployed 2G bandwidth in the 900-MHz and 1800-MHz frequencies, and up to four licenses look likely to be sold in a process set to begin in 2013.
India, meanwhile, is still dealing with the fallout of cancelling 122 2G licenses issued in 2008. The country’s Department of Telecom claims it won’t be ready to re-sell the licenses until late December, and even that is dependent on national regulator TRAI submitting recommendations on the auction process by mid-May.
A 3G auction in neighboring Pakistan will feature a bid from China Mobile, the operator’s chairman, Wang Jianzhou, told China Daily. The carrier, which already operates a 2G service in the country, plans to deploy W-CDMA if successful.
Regulators haven’t had it all their own way this week, though. The European Commission revealed it has suspended Latvian regulator SPRK’s plan not to implement Europe-wide mobile call termination rules for at least three months while the Commission and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications investigate the move.
Neelie Kroes, vice president of the EC’s digital agenda, said failure to implement the termination rules could impact consumer’s ability to make phone calls. The Commission also believes the block could be used by some operators to drive competitors out of business.
Hungarian regulator the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) was also on the receiving end of criticism, this time by Deutsche Telekom’s local subsidiary Magyar Telekom.
The operator launched legal action to overturn NMHH’s sale of a 10.8-MHz block of unused spectrum – a sale Magyar Telekom claims was riddled with legal errors and should not have included a consortium comprising Magyar Posta, MFB Invest, and Magyar Villamos Művek. The NMHH rejected an appeal by the Deutsche Telekom company and other operators over the outcome of the December sale.
Still, it could be worse. In Thailand, the opposition Democrat party has called for ICT Minister Anudith Nakontap to be impeached for false declaration of assets. The call refers to a 2008 declaration by Nakontap that his debts exceeded his assets by 2 million Thai baht (€49,657), and a subsequent declaration in April 2011 of assets far in excess of his pay as an MP – 11 million baht.
In merger and acquisition news, infrastructure vendor Ericsson agreed to buy the broadcast services division of media firm Technicolor for €19 million. Ericsson plans to use the purchase, which includes 900 staff and current Technicolor customers, to broaden its managed services capabilities into the broadcasting sector.
Vodafone teamed up with Philippines carrier Smart Communications to deliver managed services to mobile network operators in the country. The deal is part of Vodafone’s bid to expand its network of partners in Asia Pacific, outlined when it joined the Conexus Mobile Alliance in September.
Meanwhile, Etisalat is reportedly looking for the door in Indonesia, putting its 13.3% stake in the country’s third-largest carrier, XL Axiata, up for sale for between $600 million (€457 million) and $700 million.
Nokia is also heading for the exit, but this time from its Indian mobile money ventures. A spokesman says the vendor is examining its options for a “structured exit” from its current Nokia Money service and joint ventures with local partners YES Bank and Union Bank.
With so many exits, it’s perhaps a good thing at least one firm is seeking to stimulate new business. France Telecom revealed a partnership with Publicis Groupe and Iris Capital Management to create a digital venture capital fund with a pot of at least €300 million. Monies will be allocated to established firms in France and Europe that are seeking to expand, early-stage companies in the region, and non-European start-ups.
And Yahoo appeared to shoot itself in the foot by filing a patent infringement lawsuit on long-term business partner Facebook.
The firm claims the Facebook’s entire network model is based on Yahoo technology, however the decision to sue isn’t backed by everyone at Yahoo, All Things Digital reports.