The UK system of government and regulation can sometimes be confusing, with the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of the House of Commons this week announcing an inquiry into the use of spectrum in the UK and issuing a call for written evidence.
The Select Committee is neither the national regulatory authority with responsibility for spectrum (that being Ofcom), nor the relevant government department (that being the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – for details of how telecoms ended up there see this post). Instead the Select Committee provides parliamentary oversight and scrutiny, but has no power to set policy.
The issues being investigated include:
- whether the proposed method of spectrum allocation promotes, or hinders, competition in the provision of mobile broadband services;
- whether the upcoming auction can provide value for money for tax payers and how that should be balanced with benefits for consumers;
- the potential for next generation mobile internet services offered by the forthcoming availability of spectrum;
- whether the upcoming auction can deliver improved mobile broadband coverage in rural areas, as well as cities;
- whether licence fees for mobile operators have previously been set at appropriate levels, and how this should be assessed;
- how the position of the UK compares with other countries, with regards to the allocation and utilisation of mobile broadband spectrum;
- the possible impact on alternative uses for spectrum.
Whilst the Committee has no formal power over Ofcom it is likely that Ofcom will take account of any finding or recommendations in the upcoming UK spectrum auctions of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum.