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We say nein! to 3G refunds

UK and Germany won't cut 3G licence fees

Two days after the French government said it was willing to relax its fees for 3G (third-generation) mobile spectrum licences, both the UK and German governments said they would not be following suit.

The UK government confirmed on Thursday that it has decided against offering any sort of rebate to companies that bought licence fees for 3G. The confirmation comes on the same day as a newspaper report, which states that Germany's top postal and telecommunication regulator won't consider granting after-the-fact reductions in licence fees for 3G mobile operators.

"We can't speak about what France may or may not be doing in regards to 3G, but as far as the UK cutting fees, the answer is no," said a spokesman for the Radiocommunications Agency, an executive agency of the UK's Department of Trade and Industry.

Matthias Kurth, president of the German telco watchdog RegTP, said Germany will not follow the lead of France in cutting fees, the SZ (Süddeutsche Zeitung) reported. A spokesman for Kurth could not be reached for comment.

Kurth said the German licencing procedure rules out changes to the fee schedule or timetables for network construction, the SZ reported. He also ruled out any state subsidies or bridge loans to telecom providers, along the lines of help extended by some governments to airlines in recent weeks.

Kurth ruled out any arrangement that would allow a licenced operator to drop out of the market, however, short of selling its licence to another company.

"That would contradict our role and duty, because it was the companies' free choice to apply for a licence and to pay 16 billion marks each for it," the SZ quoted him as saying.

As for the UK, the Radiocommunications Agency spokesman said that the money had already been spent. In March, the government said it would use the £22.48bn windfall it gained from its April 2000 auction of 3G mobile telecommunication spectrum licences to pay off a large portion of its national debt.

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