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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 17:47 GMT
Wireless broadband plans attacked
National Assembly building
The assembly wants cost effective broadband in Wales
Assembly Members have reacted angrily to the UK Government's plans to sell licences for wireless broadband covering Wales.

The body's economic development committee was told on Thursday that the way the licence map had been drawn up, parts of east and north Wales were being lumped in with English counties.

Andrew Davies AM
Andrew Davies AM: 'Request ignored'

Broadband providers and independent web film makers warned that businesses in Wales could be harmed if they could not access a quality, cost effective service.

The plan for four dividing Wales into four areas has been criticised as impractical and a preferred option of west and east Wales has been suggested.

Mike Parker, of Total Network Solutions Ltd, a Welsh broadband provider, urged the assembly to intervene.

And Prof Mike Tedd, chair of the Welsh Advisory Committee on Telecommunications (WACT) warned Wales could lose out.

The Welsh Assembly Government is leading the way in the UK in supporting the development of broadband.

It has committed 135m over 10 years to the project.

The Department of Trade and Industry's Radiocommunications Agency is auctioning licences for part of the limited radio spectrum - 3.4 gigahertz - (only frequencies between 2 and 10GHz are useful in Wales).

The chance of all of those parts of Wales having the licence available for use in the way that we want to use it is very, very small

Prof Mike Tedd, WACT

The four-way split of Wales pitches some rural areas in with more populous areas of England.

But there is no compunction on the winning bidder to offer a service to every or any part of the licence area.

And this would mean companies prioritising more profitable, well populated area, or indeed not using their licenses at all.

But a DTI spokesman said the licence boundaries had been drawn up after in-depth economic and market studies.

"The majority of respondents agreed with the licence boundary proposals.

"The suggestions for licences to include areas totally within the boundaries of the devolved administrations and account for geographical conditions or political boundaries were rejected.

"There was little support for them and lack of evidence to suggest how they would be more successful than the initial proposals."

Broadband is delivered to a small audience in Wales via cable, satellite and wireless technologies.

But wireless provision in particular is seen as crucially important in more remote rural areas, where installing cabling is difficult and expensive - up to 50,000 per kilometre.

Dafydd Wigley AM
Dafydd Wigley AM: 'Lunatic plans'

Prof Tedd said the broadband licensing issue for Wales was important,

"The chance of all of those parts of Wales having the licence available for use in the way that we want to use it is very, very small given those areas - so I'm very cross about that."

Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies said the DTI had drawn up maps for licence sales despite his representations to the contrary.

"Policy is everything and if central Government steams ahead - which it seems determined to do - it will be to the detriment of Wales."

Former Plaid Cymru President Dafydd Wigley told Andrew Davies the situation was extremely serious.

"Why on earth are we in a position where they've taken no notice of you, not just of you but of us through you?," he said.

"If the map is as lunatic as it's been described to us then surely we've got to win battles like this.

"I mean, I ask the question rhetorically, 'Where are our representatives in Westminster and where is the Welsh Office on this?'"

Mr Wigley suggested the Welsh Assembly Government look into the feasibility of intervening in the bidding process for licences, either directly or through the Welsh Development Agency.


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30 Jan 03 | Wales
07 Jan 03 | Technology
02 Jan 03 | Technology
27 Dec 02 | Technology
23 Dec 02 | England
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