Three slams Ofcom mobile spectrum auction

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The latest auction will cap the maximum amount of spectrum any one operator can hold at 37 per cent

Three CEO Dave Dyson has slammed Ofcom’s decision to not place a 30 per cent cap on spectrum in its upcoming auction.

Ofcom released the latest proposals for the spectrum auction, which it confirmed will happen later this year, today (July 11). The regulator has put 190MHz of spectrum across the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz frequency bands up for grabs. Spectrum from the 2.3GHz band is immediately usable by operators for extra capacity which leads to faster mobile download speeds. Airwaves in the 3.4GHz band is expected as a key driver for the rollout of 5G mobile services across Europe.

There have been two caps placed on bidding operators. The first is a 255MHz barrier on all immediately usable spectrum, which will prevent BT/EE from bidding on any airwaves in the 2.3GHz option. The second is an additional 340MHz barrier on the overall amount of mobile spectrum any one operator can hold. This is the equivalent of a 37 per cent cap.

Dyson has long campaigned for a 30 per cent cap, claiming anything less would severely impact competition and pricing for UK consumers. He said: “Ofcom’s proposal is a kick in the teeth for all consumers and in particular for the near-200,000 people who signed up to the ‘Make the Air Fair’ campaign.

“By making decisions that increase the dominance of the largest operators, Ofcom is damaging competition, restricting choice and pushing prices up for the very consumers that it is meant to protect.

“The mobile market is imbalanced and failing customers. Ofcom has shown little interest in tackling the problem. We will consider our response as a matter of urgency.”

O2 CEO Mark Evans had a similar response and said: “The announcement from Ofcom falls short of our expectations but it is important we now press ahead with the auction quickly so that the spectrum can be obtained by operators that will deploy it for the benefit of consumers, businesses and ultimately UK plc.”

Ofcom spectrum group director Philip Marnick said: “Spectrum is a vital resource that fuels the UK’s economy. We’ve designed this auction to ensure that people and businesses continue to benefit from strong competition for mobile services.

“We want to see this spectrum in use as soon as possible. With smartphones and tablets using even more data, people need a choice of fast and reliable mobile networks. These new airwaves will support better services for mobile users, and allow operators to innovate and build for the future.”

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