MOBILE broadband operators have been heavily criticised in a report released by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee for severely delaying the auction of 4G spectrum.
Last month, Ofcom revealed that it was pushing back the 4G auctions from the first half to the latter part of 2012, after it was unable to settle squabbles between providers.
O2 and Vodafone have both launched legal challenges to Ofcom's proposed rules for the auction, which are meant to ensure that 3 can secure a slice of the tasty, tasty 4G spectrum pie.
"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," said the Committee Chair, John Whittingdale MP.
"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."
In addition, the report highlighted the need for improved access to mobile broadband services across rural Britain.
MPs said they found the "imposition of a 95% coverage obligation to be unambitious" and demanded that the target for 4G services be raised to 98% of the population.
4G mobile broadband services could provide a much cheaper solution for rural areas which lack fast broadband services at present and the Government is keen to utilise the format to meet its universal service commitments.
Whittingdale, "We believe that Ofcom needs to go further than it currently proposes by setting a condition that at least one of the new licence holders must achieve 98% coverage across the country."
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance told The Telegraph that, "The Alliance believes that the current lack of reliable broadband is one of the greatest threats to the growth of the rural economy.
"...the Government should hasten the roll-out of rural broadband, as well as ensuring the sale of spectrum enables the countryside to compete in a growing digital economy."
Using any extra funds to invest into achieving the 98% coverage the report calls for could well be a way to boost rural broadband provision without placing too much burden on any one of the mobile broadband providers.
However, one further issue thrown up by the report is the concern that Everything Everywhere will be profiting from the sale of an asset formerly in the hands of the public.
The Committee wanted Ofcom to ensure that "at least some" of the profit provided public benefit.
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