UK government has stepped up its fight to support new entrants that plan to launch advanced third generation (3G) mobile services here.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has launched an appeal against a High Court ruling last month that prevented new operators, while they build their own 3G networks, from sharing existing operators' networks.
Third generation Universal Mobile Telecoms System (UMTS) services will expand the data capacity of mobile phone networks, enabling new services, such as Internet, music and video, to be downloaded to third generation mobile devices.
"We believe it's important that potential new entrants should be allowed to roam on existing networks," a DTI spokesman told VNU Newswire.
The government had previously told the UK's four indigenous mobile operators they should open up their networks to new 3G operators. One 2 One objected and took the case to the High Court, which ruled that the government had applied undue pressure on existing operators to agree to change their licenses.
The legal wrangling is likely to delay the roll out of third generation services in the UK for the second time. Licences were originally supposed to be auctioned this year.
One 2 One said today it supported competition, but said its case was about regulatory uncertainty not competition.
"If mobile operators are to invest millions of pounds into the UK economy, they need to know that ministers will follow the rules laid down by Parliament. Three weeks ago the High Court found that they had not," One 2 One said in a statement.
Five third generation mobile licenses will be auctioned next year, opening the door to at least one new mobile operator. Virgin and Energis are among those considering a bid.
New entrants should pay to roam on other operators' networks at rates either agreed by them or set by telecoms watchdog Oftel. The DTI said existing operators would not be at a disadvantage because their spare capacity would be used by roaming traffic, giving them extra revenue.
Charging new operators for roaming will also encourage them to speed the building of their own networks. New operators have until 2007 to cover 80 per cent of the population or risk losing their licence. The right to roam will cease after 2009.
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