Chapter 5: Sale of the Century: 3G Mobile Licensing in Europe
5. Sale of the century: 3G mobile phone licensing in Europe Mark Thatcher INTRODUCTION The licensing of 3G (third generation) mobile phones in Europe represented a major change in the regulation of mobile communications. Discretionary allocation of licences to favoured domestic national champions was replaced with auctions or formalized high-cost beauty contests. Although auctions are an ‘old instrument’, their application in 3G mobile phone licensing can truly be termed a regulatory innovation as it saw major alterations of instruments, the degree of formality, competition, interests served, cost, cross-national learning the positions of incumbent suppliers. Modification of 3G mobile phone licensing represents at least a ‘second-order change’ whereby instruments and techniques are altered, and approaches a third-order change in which policy goals and paradigms are altered (Hall 1993). This chapter analyses 3G mobile phone licensing by drawing primarily on the perspectives offered by the ‘state world’ of innovation, namely the decisions of the state. Its starting points are the claims by interest group and industrial policy literatures that public policy-makers act in the interests of large suppliers and arguments by comparative institutionalist studies that inherited institutional arrangements result in major cross-national differences in innovation. However the analysis also has implications for the individual world of entrepreneurs who are argued to lead innovation and for the ‘world of the innovation’ since it considers how the features of 3G licence auctions in Europe affected their cross-national spread. This chapter explores four general issues that relate to these worlds. First, it discusses the conditions...
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