EE ready to fight court ruling

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Everything Everywhere set to appeal decision that roaming between Orange and T-Mobile networks breaches infrastructure contracts with Arqiva

The High Court has ruled that Everything Everywhere’s (EE) attempt to combine the Orange and T-Mobile networks breaches contracts worth millions of pounds with network infrastructure firm Arqiva.

Arqiva has agreements with both T-Mobile and Orange allowing the operators to use its base stations, which contain masts and other hardware, to transmit mobile signals across the UK.

However, these agreements restrict mobile operators from sharing their rights to use the base stations, and Arqiva took EE to court alleging that by allowing customers to roam across both networks, the newly merged firm has broken these restrictions.

Arqiva is now asking the court for ‘injunctive relief’, which could stop EE introducing the next stage of its network-sharing plan, or force the firm to pay out significant sums to go ahead with combining the networks fully.

A further hearing on the injunction is scheduled for later this month.

T-Mobile users can currently make calls using each other’s networks. But T-Mobile and Orange handsets are not yet able to switch between signals mid-call without interruption, or use 3G signals from the other network.

Arqiva also alleges EE plans to reduce the number of base stations it needs to lease from Arqiva by combining the networks – drastically reducing fees it claims are worth £109.3 million a year – a move prohibited under some of the agreements.

The firm says EE also intends to use network sharing to reduce locations needed to introduce new technology such as 4G.

Representatives for EE told the court that the ruling could have far-reaching repercussions for the way in which operators deal with roaming between networks and the leasing of network capacity to MVNOs.

EE, which is to appeal, said the ruling could result in operators being unable to honour international roaming agreements both in and outside the UK.

As well as challenging the use of roaming under existing contracts, Arqiva argued in court that the transfer of spectrum licences from Orange Personal Communications Services, the firm which up until the merger was responsible for the Orange brand, to EE, was not valid under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

But Technology and Construction Court Judge Mr Justice Ramsey said he could not rule on the matter without consulting Ofcom, which agreed for the license to be transferred in March.

A spokesperson for EE said: “EE has been in discussions with Arqiva about the way in which we are developing our networks to continue enhancing mobile service for our customers. We believe that Arqiva’s objections to these initiatives are unmerited, and the terms proposed by Arqiva to accommodate these changes are entirely unfair and unreasonable.

“We are disappointed by those parts of the judgment where we were unsuccessful, and we plan to appeal and seek clarification of those aspects of the judgment. We do not anticipate that this will significantly delay our network evolution plans.”

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