People who use their mobile phones in airwave-congested areas could face price hikes of around 10p a week if operators decide to pass to subscribers a mobile phone tax outlined today.
The Wireless Telegraphy (Spectrum Pricing) Bill expects to raise around #1 billion in new charges to the mobile phone and radio communications industry. It is expected to break the link that exists between licence fees and spectrum management costs, and allow fees to reflect more closely the value of the spectrum, explained government officials.
The higher charges would be imposed on areas ?where there is already congestion?, but the government promised that only around 20 per cent of licensees would need to pay more.
A spokesperson at the Consumers? Association expressed concern that customers would be confused by whether their operators have passed the cost to them or be able to judge whether others have absorbed the cost themselves because bills are not clearly set out.
A spokesperson from mobile operator One2One said he agreed there should be spectrum pricing but charges must reflect the situation in the market. For instance it would be less easy for the younger operators, such as One2One and Orange, to absorb the charges themselves because they are making less revenues than the established Vodafone and Cellnet. ?Whether we pass the charge onto our subscribers depend on whether all four mobile phone operators are sent the same sized bills,? he said.
The government said the Bill is to encourage operators to maximise spectrum efficiency and discourage hoarding of airwaves. Under current legislation, the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, charges for radio licences are based on the administrative costs of Radiocommunications Agency, rather than the economic value of the spectrum.
Pricing of radio spectrum has been long discussed by the previous government. The new Wireless Telegraphy (Spectrum Pricing) Bill is based on a White Paper prepared by the Tories last year.
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