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Three’s Dyson slams Ofcom ahead of new spectrum auction

Alex Yau
November 21, 2016

Dyson criticised the regulator for its decision not to cap the amount of spectrum operators can hold at 30 per cent

Three CEO Dave Dyson has hit out at Ofcom for not capping the amount of spectrum operators can hold following its decision to offer more MHz in the next auction.

The regulator next year will auction 190MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GhZ bands, increasing the total mobile spectrum already available by nearly a third. Ofcom claims the 40MHz of spectrum to be auctioned in the 2.3GHz band can be used immediately after release to provide extra capacity for faster download and internet browsing speeds. It is already supported by many devices such as the iPhone.

However, the 150MHz spectrum in the 3.4GHz band cannot be supported by most mobile devices currently on the market, but will likely be usable in future handsets. It has been identified as key to the rollout of 5G across Europe.

The decision follows criticism from Three CEO Dave Dyson who claimed EE and Vodafone placed other operators at a disadvantage by ‘sitting on too much spare spectrum.’

Speaking about Ofcom’s latest decision, Dyson said: “Ofcom exists to promote competition and protect consumers but it has once again shown it is not willing to make the big decisions needed to deliver the best outcome for the UK.

“It has allowed BT and Vodafone to stockpile valuable mobile airwaves and put genuine choice for consumers at risk. It made empty promises to the European Commission that it would tackle this issue but it doesn’t have the courage to do so.

“The mobile industry is failing customers and Ofcom has showed it has no interest in addressing that. A 30 per cent cap on total spectrum ownership and a spectrum reservation for smaller operators are the only measures that will preserve competition for the benefit of UK mobile consumers.”

EE Cap

EE currently holds 45 per cent of usable spectrum, followed by Vodafone (28 per cent), O2 (15 per cent) and Three (12 per cent). The new spectrum would cause EE’s share to drop down to 42 per cent. Ofcom has applied a cap on the 255MHz spectrum following concerns it would harm competition in the next few years. It claimed EE would hold nearly half the spectrum available in the market if it were able to bid on the 255MHz share.
No cap is being placed on the 3.4GHz spectrum because it is not immediately available for use. Ofcom said it believes operators should be given an opportunity to acquire this spectrum for the development of 5G services.

Ofcom spectrum group director Philip Marnick said: “Spectrum is the essential resource that fuels the UK’s economy. This auction can help ensure that UK consumers can access the mobile data services they need, and that operators can continue to innovate and build for the future.
“The UK has long benefitted from strong mobile competition. We are designing the auction to ensure everyone benefits from a market that continues to innovate and serve them well.”

All operators have until January 30 next year to put in a response to Ofcom. Mobile News has contacted O2, Vodafone and EE for comment.


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