BCL action "has no merit": Walker Wireless

Walker Wireless is seeking to have BCL's application for a judicial review of the way 2GHz spectrum licences were awarded to Walker Wireless struck out.

Walker Wireless is seeking to have BCL's application for a judicial review of the way 2GHz spectrum licences were awarded to Walker Wireless struck out.

Earlier this month, BCL filed the application for a judicial review of the awarding of spectrum in the spectrum band next to that previously obtained by BCL, on the grounds that the potential of Walker Wireless' signals to disrupt BCL's may not have been fully addressed.

Walker Wireless managing director Bob Smith believes Walker Wireless’ licences were registered in accordance with the Telecommunications Act and that they are valid.

"We will seek to have this action struck out, as it has no merit."

Smith says BCL claims the receivers it has chosen can "listen in" on Walker Wireless' transmission.

"We bought the spectrum and we have the management rights - BCL is claiming they can't stop the receivers listening in on our transmissions and that could potentially cause them an issue."

Smith says the spectrum was awarded to Walker Wireless and BCL about two years ago, in the spectrum block sale numbered 1098 by the Ministry of Economic Development, which oversees spectrum sales.

He says his company was in discussions with BCL and then BCL registered its licences in the spectrum adjacent to Walker Wireless’. It was now trying to claim rights to Walker Wireless’s spectrum, he says.

“My whole attitude is it's just the incumbent-style thinking of a bygone era … It's just bully boy tactics by BCL - that's the best way to describe it."

If the action isn't struck out and the judicial review goes ahead, "we'll all end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers that would be better spent on building infrastructure and the result will be delays [in rolling out broadband].”

BCL managing director Geoff Lawson isn't commenting because the matter is before the courts."

Chris Matthews, spokesman for the Far North Development Trust, which is co-ordinating Northland's regional broadband tender, says BCL's move is something he "doesn't view with a lot of excitement”.

"I can't quite understand why BCL would want to go down that path - this is an industry issue. Why didn't they sit around a table with other industry players and work out some protocols as to how things might be solved?"

He says it's "sad" that BCL, as an SOE, can't act in the national interest. BCL's move amounts to thwarting the government's policy of getting broadband to the provinces.

Matthews says Vodafone potentially has a much bigger problem with this issue. He suspects BCL's move isn't a genuine effort to secure some industry definition of the interference issue, “but is a tacky little business tactic”.

He questions what strategic benefit BCL will gain by the move, other than by delaying the inevitable. If the application for judicial review is successful, the rollout of broadband in Northland will be delayed "and the region will become very agitated”.

Tuanz chief executive Ernie Newman says BCL's actions are not the sort of thing Tuanz would have expected from an open network owner and a state-owned organisation.

"Protecting the integrity of their network is one thing, and they've drawn the attention of radio engineers around the country to the need to be careful about interference, but taking legal action is way over the top."

Newman says "the telecoms industry, more than any other, tends to rush to litigate in the first instance."

When asked if Telecom, BCL's partner in the unsuccessful bids for Northland, Southland and the Wairarapa, may have something to do with the court action, he said "it's the kind of response one would normally expect from an incumbent protecting its patch, rather than from a publicly owned network operator.

"When BCL went into partnership with Telecom, BCL said 'it's an open network' and wouldn't be exclusive, but the connection with Telecom makes one somewhat thoughtful."

However, a Telecom spokesman says Telecom has nothing to do with the action being taken by BCL.

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