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Licence Boundaries (Wales)

Volume 401: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many responses to the DTI consultation on licence boundaries were received regarding Wales; and how many expressed support for licence boundaries to include areas totally within the boundaries of the devolved Administration. 103456]

[holding answer 17 March 2003]: 19 responses were received to the consultation. Two of these expressed support for a licence boundary following the border of Wales—those from MLL, a telecoms provider, and the Welsh Advisory Committee on Telecommunications.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria were used by the Government to decide the allocation of regions for the auction of 3.4GHz wireless broadband licences; and if she will make a statement about the proposal to disregard the geographical Welsh border. 103458]

[holding answer 17 March 2003]: The 3.4GHz licence packaging was designed to increase competition and availability of broadband services across the UK. The licence regions were drawn up following market and economic studies to be as economically viable and inclusive as possible, maximising the potential development of sustainable wireless services and the broadband market throughout the UK.Dividing up spectrum at 3.4GHz along the lines of funded regions, as suggested by the Welsh National Assembly, would produce more areas of the UK with no coverage. It would also lead to a lower capacity—that is, fewer broadband customers in Wales who can be supported, given the spectrum available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what representations her Department received from the National Assembly for Wales on allocating regions for the forthcoming auction of 3.4GHz wireless broadband licences; and if she will make a statement; [103459](2) what representations the Secretary of State has received from

the National Assembly for Wales and (b) others in Wales on the proposed licence boundaries for the forthcoming auction of 3.4GHz wireless broadband licence. [103457]

[holding answer 17 March 2003]: Consultation on the allocation of 3.4GHz public fixed wireless access (PFWA) licences began on 19 December 2000, when the Radiocommunications Agency ("RA"), on behalf of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, published a consultative document entitled "3.4 and 10 GHz: Scenarios for Spectrum Packaging and Delivery". This consultation document presented a number of scenarios for packaging and delivering licences to establish and use stations and apparatus for wireless telegraphy in the 3.4 and 10GHz bands for the provision of Fixed Wireless Access services ("FWA").Following a detailed review of the responses to the December consultation document and the completion of further technical studies in the 3.4GHz and 10GHz bands a further consultation document, "PFWA: Proposal by the RA to package and deliver licences at 3.4GHz", published in April 2002, set out the proposal to award spectrum licences for the 3.4GHz band.Both consultations were carried out nationally and all Government Departments and devolved Administrations were invited, along with industry and the public, to be involved and comment on the proposals. Among the many comments received and meetings held, RA received input and held discussions with officials of the National Assembly for Wales on numerous occasions. This included a proposal from the Welsh Assembly Government for two licences to match EU objective funding areas in Wales. This proposal was included in the public consultation process alongside those of the Scottish Administration and RA.Of the responses to the consultation, only one industry response expressed support for the proposals from the devolved Administrations, MLL, a telecoms provider with operations in Wales. One industry response to Government's consultation commented "creating two purely Welsh regions could result in insufficient market potential in viable geographic coverage spreads to justify serious bidding". The Welsh Advisory Committee on Telecommunications, part of the Welsh National Assembly, also expressed support.Since the timetable of the award was announced there have been representations from Welsh National Assembly members about licence areas. Further consideration has been given to this issue but I believe the packaging, which has been accepted by the majority of industry, will produce the best outcome both for Wales and for the UK as a whole.In particular, it will enable a larger number of users to be supported in Wales, given the spectrum available, than the alternative proposal.