Wrong phone number cost more than a billion pounds

Man uses Blackberry phone in Bangkok. Photo: REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

4G was meant to earn £3.5 billion for government. Yet only £2.3 billion was achieved in the auction of phone frequencies.

Red faces spread across the Treasury - the Chancellor had mentioned the projected income as part of his claim in the Autumn Statement that borrowing could be reduced.

The government is saying it was only ever an "estimate".

The Treasury fell short of their estimate for 4G.

Industry figures I've spoken to insist this was a "fair price" and say that when the Treasury last sold phone frequencies in 2000, it made too much money, £22.5 billion.

They claim that left firms so short of money, they couldn’t innovate services.

It’s a shame that the political tit-for-tat has eclipsed a landmark moment in Britain’s roll out of mobile internet, which is around five times faster than old speeds.

Today is the starting gun for a series of developments: from this Spring, Vodafone will launch; O2 offers 4G from the summer; with Three offering more 4G by October.

Getting into the digital fast lane is supposed to help British business make money - but tonight it’s government embarrassment at lower than expected earnings that stole the headlines.

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