William Webb: Spectrum Reform: A U.K. Regulator’s Perspective

A Lecture by William Webb, Head of Research and Development and Senior Technologist, OFCOM, the telecommunications regulator in the United Kingdom

Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 4 p.m. Room 121

William Webb, Head of Research and Development and Senior Technologist, OFCOM, the telecommunications regulator in the United Kingdom, delivered an inside view of the U.K.’s cutting edge policy initiative to liberalize radio spectrum on Thursday, November 12, at the Information Economy Project at the George Mason University School of Law.

Regulation of the radio spectrum is nearly 100 years old. For almost all of that century, the policy-imagemaker has micro-managed spectrum use, defining services, technologies and business models deployed by wireless operators. The inefficiencies embedded in this approach have triggered calls for liberalization since the pioneering 1950s work of Ronald Coase.

Yet, efforts to relax administrative control have proven slow and often contentious. Progress has been made in recent years, however, and policy makers in some nations are now seeking to achieve bolder changes. The regulator in the United Kingdom, Ofcom, has emerged as a leader in this campaign. After the Labour Government commissioned a landmark 2002 study authored by economist Martin Cave, Ofcom moved aggressively to assist the emergence of property rights in frequencies, the institutional switch enabling market allocation of radio spectrum.

This lecture, delivered by a key Ofcom policy official and a noted spectrum technology expert in his own right, dissects the liberalization process in Great Britain and offers lessons learned. This experience promises great insight for the U.S. and other countries struggling to enact pro-consumer policy reforms.

Article from this Lecture:

An Optimal Way To License the Radio Spectrum” by William Webb, 33 Telecommunications Policy 230-37 (Apr.-May 2009)

Presentation Files:

Spectrum Reform [Power Point Presentation]


Download (PPT, Unknown)

Digital Recording of Webb’s November 12 ‘Big Ideas’ Lecture: Part 1 | Part 2 [MP3 files]



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This entry is part 6 of 20 in the series Tullock Lecture Big Ideas About Information Series