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Mandelson joins debate over radio spectrum and 2mbps broadband

Ian Grant

The chief executives of the UK's five mobile phone network operators (MNOs) met business secretary Peter Mandelson yesterday to thrash out the reallocation of radio frequencies.

The deal, which is emerging slowly, will bring the UK into line with European proposals to create a single telecommunications market under common regulations.

It will also allow the government to push forward its aim to make universal 2mbps broadband internet access part of the new industrial policy set out in the final Digital Britain report.

The meeting followed the failure of Kip Meek, the government's spectrum broker and chairman of the Broadband Stakeholders' Group, to persuade Vodafone and O2 to give their rights to parts of the 900MHz spectrum.

The EU has said Ofcom has six months from October to reallocate the frequencies.

Lord Mandelson said, "The UK's mobile network operators have a pivotal role in making this a reality."

Meek published fresh proposals in May.

Yesterday's meeting with Mandelson was to fine-tune them and to remove further stumbling blocks.

A spokesman for one of the MNOs, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were largely happy with Meek's proposals. "Everyone wants a deal," he said. "It's just a question of timing and who gets what (spectrum) and when."

An O2 spokesperson said, "We think Kip Meek's proposal has a lot of merit, but there remain some points of detail that need to be worked through."

Spokesmen for 3 declined to comment.


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