Outrage as Ofcom contractor sells taxpayer-funded equipment into 'cleared' spectrum

Thursday, 15 September 2011
Outrage as Ofcom contractor sells taxpayer-funded equipment into 'cleared' spectrumThe BEIRG campaign has fought tirelessly for the past seven years for the protection of the entertainment industry's use of radio spectrum.
UK - It emerged yesterday that the company appointed by Ofcom to make way for new 4G services in the 800MHz band is selling equipment into the spectrum which taxpayers paid them to clear.

In 2009 Ofcom announced that wireless microphone users would be evicted from the 800MHz band to make way for new mobile broadband services. Following an industry campaign, Save Our Sound UK, which pointed out the damage being done to the British entertainment industry, the UK Government agreed to fund part of the clearance of the band. To qualify for taxpayer funding, Channel 69 equipment had to be surrendered.

This equipment is now being resold back into the band which taxpayers paid to remove it from, by the scheme's administrator - Equiniti. A significant amount of equipment has already been sold, and Equiniti is now gearing up its operations to release up to 80,000 channels for use in UK spectrum. Only a fraction of the profit from the sale is going to the taxpayer who financed the scheme - the rest goes directly to Equiniti.

The British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG) has repeatedly warned Ofcom about the damage that resale of this equipment could cause to manufacturers, wireless microphone users, and taxpayers. An influx of under-priced equipment, which will not be licensable in just over a year, will grossly distort the UK microphone sale and hire market - and will go against the very purpose of the taxpayer funded scheme.

BEIRG is also concerned that Equiniti's actions may ultimately affect the attractiveness of the 800MHz band to mobile broadband companies. The price they are willing to pay in next year's 4G auctions could be considerably reduced.

If this resale continues UK taxpayers will end up paying for this scheme twice over - once in the original funding scheme (including the fee paid by Ofcom to Equiniti), and again in the reduced price mobile companies pay for 4G spectrum auction.

Following a meeting with Equiniti at the PLASA Show in London yesterday (Wednesday 14 September) Ron Bonner, from PLASA and the BEIRG Steering Committee, stated: "Equiniti has been paid from our taxes, through Ofcom, to administer the PMSE funding scheme. Equiniti has not paid for the equipment - the public paid for it. Equiniti now wants to sell the equipment on for profit, whilst damaging microphone manufacturers' and the taxpayers' chance of getting the highest price for the 800MHz band when it is auctioned next year. Ofcom needs to step in now to stop this sale, and ensure that the original purpose of the scheme is not undermined by the re-release of surrendered equipment into UK spectrum."

(Lee Baldock)

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