At teatime on Tuesday, one of the most important meetings in the development of mobile broadband in the UK is happening. For all those waiting to have faster downloads on the move, this is vital.
Since 2008, while many other nations raced ahead, Britain has been in the internet slow lane. Our smart phones and laptops have been denied the latest speedy technology.
In part this has been because of legal in-fighting between the phone firms and their regulator Ofcom. Tonight, that seems likely to change. Government, Ofcom and the phone companies are aiming to do a deal that will unlock our digital future.
Rivals of the phone company Everything Everywhere (a union of Orange and T-Mobile) are furious that it is likely to launch 4G before Christmas - giving it a monopoly. Other firms have been threatening a legal challenge.
Now, desperate to shorten the amount of time EE has the field to itself, they seem ready to do a deal to keep roll-out of 4G out of court.
Those close to the talks tell me any agreement would be three-pronged:
- 1. Auction: Ofcom will say the auction of 4G spectrum will be brought forward to early January next year (it was originally set for March). This would allow phone firms to start bidding for their share of 4G.
- 2. Clearance: 4G relies on clearing old TV and radar signals from the spectrum. This too will be brought forward meaning, says one insider: "Nationwide 4G is now expected by next spring".
- 3. Interference: a deal will be done whereby the phone firms agree to fund a plan to help any consumers and businesses adversely affected by the 4G signals. This will cost around £180m.