HC Deb 09 December 1982 vol 33 cc593-4W
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what progress has been made towards the selection of an operator for the second national radio telephone network.

Mr. Butcher

Five applicants submitted bids in the competition to select a licensee to run a national radio telephone network in competition with the Securitel consortium led by British Telecom.

When the competition was announced the guidelines issued by my Department were drafted on the assumption that the applications would be based on the cellular radio technology to be chosen by British Telecom. Because of problems which arose before the closing date of the competition on 30 September my Department issued on 3 September 1982 revised guidelines permitting the submission of applications based on any appropriate form of cellular radio technology, but on the understanding that the successful applicant could be required to employ a different form of technology as a condition of obtaining a licence.

Accordingly, my consultants, SRI, have evaluated the applications on a basis which is neutral between the different forms of cellular technology and each applicant's choice of technology will not influence my decision on that application.

In the course of its general assessment of the applications. SRI formed the view that none of them could be recommended for acceptance in the form originally proposed. I agreed that SRI should approach all the applicants to discuss these shortcomings and in three cases to give the applicants a chance to submit revised proposals.

SRI has done this, and on 30 November I received its report. This is now being considered by my advisory panel on telecommunications liberalisation. I hope to receive its views shortly and to announce later this month whether the Government have confirmed their provisional decision to license two competing radio telephone networks, and, if so, to announce the name of the second licensee.

As soon as I have announced the result of the competition there will be consultations between my Department, the Home Office, British Telecom, the successful private sector applicant and the Securitel consortium so that an early choice can be made amongst all the various forms of cellular radio technology which are available.

It is my intention that our new radio telephone service should commence operation in January 1985 when the relevant radio frequencies become available.