Three court appeal fails paving way for spectrum auction

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Spectrum auction is expected to be held around April 

Ofcom can now begin 5G airwave auctions as Three’s spectrum cap appeal is thrown out.

The decision was made by the Court of Appeals yesterday (Feb 13), the auction is expected to begin around April this year.

Hutchinson-owned Three launched an appeal contesting Ofcom’s spectrum cap of 37 per cent last year, CEO Dave Dyson described it as a “kick in the teeth”. The operator sought for a 30pc cap.

EE currently has a 42 per cent share of immediately usable spectrum, followed by Vodafone (29 per cent), O2 (14 per cent) and Three (15 per cent).

The cap applies to the the 3.4GHz band of spectrum which is touted as the groundworks for 5G. Ofcom expects 5G to be commercially released around 2020.

Three are “disappointed” with the decision and believe its contest over cap has not caused any delay to the auction.

A Three spokespersons said: “First of all this has not caused any delay to the delivery of 5G services to UK consumers which are not expected to rollout until 2019/20.

“The court process has helped provide clarity on whether there is a genuine 37pc cap and, thanks to the hearings, Ofcom is now much clearer that a 37pc cap is the level they believe is appropriate to maintain competitive balance.

“It is vital that Ofcom, as a minimum starting point, sticks to this number when additional spectrum is auctioned off.

“We still believe that a 37pc cap is too high if the policy objective is to have a competitive 4 player market and we would like to see it set at a lower level in the future.”

An O2 spokesperson added: “We welcome the decision to reject Three’s appeal. It is now imperative that we move forward and hold the auction as soon as possible”

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