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The government expects the “imminent” resolution of a big difficulty on the road to ensuring all UK homes have broadband access by 2012, following a meeting on Tuesday between Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, and the five mobile phone network operators.
A person familiar with the meeting said they were now close to agreeing a final allocation of the radiowave spectrum. Arguments over this have threatened to derail proposals for universal broadband access, one of the main planks of the government’s digital economy bill, which is due to be included in November’s Queen’s Speech.
“We are not quite at the end of the process, but I am optimistic that we will come out with a good outcome,” the person said. “And that outcome would be a written instruction to Ofcom [the broadcasting regulator] on managing the future auctions of spectrum.”
After the meeting, Lord Mandelson said he looked forward to seeing any remaining issues of detail being resolved within the next few days.
One of the mobile operators at the meeting said it was “very happy” with the proposals on the table. O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and 3 were present.
The allocation of spectrum is central to the government’s 2012 broadband goal announced in the Digital Britain white paper in June. The spectrum would be used by the mobile companies to provide wireless broadband access, which would fill in gaps where fixed-line companies such as Virgin Media and BT cannot reach rural homes.