Staying Ahead of The Game

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Sharon White: This partly links to the question about our international engagement. We are very heavily involved. My senior lead on spectrum runs the European Spectrum Group. As you know, there is a lot of discussion at the moment, which is trying to get the technical specifications for what 5G means agreed internationally. We are either chairing those meetings at a European level or are very actively involved in the UN. We know that they are, just as a matter of practicality, making sure that the spectrum is out in the market. Partly through Ofcom's work, the 3.4 GHz that we announced yesterday is now recognised as a 5G spectrum band. We are now identifying 26 GHz-and we are going to have to try to persuade the MoD to transfer it to us to auction-which is another important band. We are trying to get the technical specifications; we are trying to make sure that the spectrum is out there to market. Some of the competition changes we have made, even in the last year, are important. The Committee is aware that, for the mobile operators gearing up their backhaul-their core capacity for 5G-having dark fibre so that they can innovate without having to rely on BT for its electronics, will also be very important. Also thinking in the context of the USO, so the degree to which 5G might help with wireless broadband without having to have fixed links, particularly into rural premises. We are doing a lot of work.

Q70 Nigel Adams: Clearly you are. That is good to hear. There are likely to be lots of significant challenges, though, in terms of delivering it: investment-wise, engineering, and planning, particularly on investment. How do you see that panning out and how is that likely to be delivered?

Sharon White: The way you frame planning and investment in the same phrase is really important. Again, the Committee will know that the expectation is that we are going to need thousands and thousands of femtocells, these smoke-alarm-sized boxes attached to buildings, both in cities and then also in rural areas. We are trying to join up the conversations with the Government about ensuring that planning does not act as a barrier to ensuring that the investment is out there.

Q71 Nigel Adams: Do you see it mainly as an urban/suburban, product?

Sharon White: No, it won't just be urban and suburban. It will be rural areas too, but the planning issues will be slightly different. You could imagine, in rural areas, more sharing across providers. That is much harder to see in the city areas.

Question: Why should the MOD cooperate with OFCOM in releasing and sharing spectrum without the appropriate technologies being available? Will the MoD opt for US COTS as they now move even closer? 

So "Talk" - yes. Debate - no. Nigel is correct. However, Sharon's choice of words "runs the European Spectrum Group" are inappropriate. Readers also know my view on Marnick. He is on borrowed time with the EU.

In my submission (30th September 2015) to this Select Committee Inquiry into Broadband, regarding their question "How have existing Government broadband programmes been delivered", I stated the following (Section (h)): "We believe that OFCOM, although staffed by good people, suffers from an excessive planning and functionalism culture and appears to comprise of closed circles"

Webb and Marnick are highly intelligent and technically gifted, but they fall into a closed circle group-think trap which they will not break free from of their own accord. Events and technical breakthroughs shall free them.  

I must also add Richard Hooper, ex-BBC, ex-OFCOM and the current Chair of the Broadband Stakeholders Group to their company. Ultimately Hooper fails to even attempt to keep pace or compete with the Americans. Consider his appearance on Parliamentary TV before the Select Committee Establishing World Class Connectivity Inquiry, 24th November 2015, when his Establishment"Mask" slipped off. Hooper failed to appreciate that innovation leads to patents. Patents lead to state sanctioned monopolies.  Initially that is - unless they are put into the Standards pot! We shall see how Hooper's false pride and anti-Americanism fares come the new Business Connectivity Forum to be Chaired by DCMS as the Government seeks to navigate around the BSG bottleneck. Good luck. 

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