MPs slam UK 4G network auction delays

A number of Westminster MPs have called for an end to the arguments between mobile providers about how to distribute the UK's next-generation 4G mobile network, as in-fighting is delaying to roll out of the technology.

Members of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee believe it's paramount that the auction of the new bandwidth go ahead sooner rather than later.

4G is expected to offer a wider reach than 3G networks, allowing for more rural areas to access mobile broadband, as well as allowing for much faster mobile data transfers.

Ofcom claims that it expects the auction to take place sometime in mid-2012, which puts the UK behind almost every other European country. However, even given the delay, O2 and Vodafone have both said that they will take legal action if the auction goes ahead in its current state.

John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Committee, said: "Ofcom has had a very difficult job adjudicating between competing and polarised interests, and we are concerned that constant disagreement and special pleading from the four mobile network operators appears to have further delayed the spectrum auction.

"We believe that the basic rules for the auction which Ofcom has laid down are sensible and fair, and that further delays will result in the UK falling further behind in this vital area. The auction needs to proceed as soon as possible," he added.

The reason that O2 and Vodafone are all riled up however, is because of the UK's smallest UK network, Three. Because the company doesn't have a 2G network that it can reuse for 3G once the sale of 4G goes ahead, the government is keen to allow Three to purchase part of the new bandwidth for a minimum price.

This keeps the mobile market more competitive, the government says - but O2 and Vodafone claim that such measures would hamper free competition.