BT threatens to sue UK gov't over mobile broadband plans

BT has cast a shadow over the government's Digital Britain commitment, which aims to make a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps available to everybody in the UK by 2012. The operator is threatening legal action if proposals by Kip Meek - the Independent Spectrum Broker (ISB), which would involve extending current 3G Mobile Broadband licenses indefinitely, are carried forward.

A BT spokesman told The Guardian:

"BT has major reservations around the wireless spectrum proposals from the Independent Spectrum Broker. 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.

We would like 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. We are discussing our concerns with BIS and are hopeful that these will be addressed."

The proposal is part of a wider plan that would entice UK mobile operators into sharing their spectrum and opening it up for wider use by Mobile Broadband services, thus extending the services coverage to more remote and rural locations. By contrast BT has only ever dipped its toes into the fixed wireless realm, instead sticking more to local Wi-Fi Hotspots.

BT has an understandable self-interest here, as any commercial company would, though their voice is unlikely to change the tide. Ironically it comes at a time when BT is trying to lobby for money from the government's proposed 50p phone line tax and reduce its pension deficit by raising the price of access to its phone lines. Not the best time to be attacking the government then.

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