CAT says Ofcom was right not to allow 3G services on 2G spectrum

12 Oct 2010

British mobile network operators O2 UK and Vodafone UK have lost a legal challenge in which they sought to gain permission for utilising their respective 2G spectrum allocations for third generation services, Bloomberg reports. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in June 2010 O2 initiated the challenge by lodging an appeal with the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), alleging that telecoms regulator Ofcom had failed to consider a request the cellco had made to reuse old spectrum for 3G services. O2 called on the CAT to direct Ofcom to amend its licence in line with the European Union’s GSM Directive, which came into force in October 2009 and required EU member states to allow the use of 2G spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz band for third-generation services by 9 May 2010. However, in its most recent ruling, the tribunal ruled that the European directive does not oblige the UK to change the licences of either O2 or Vodafone until Ofcom has studied how such a move would impact competition. Commenting on the development Ofcom spokesman Rhys Hurd claimed that the CAT had ‘found that Ofcom was right in its view of the correct interpretation of the European law on the liberalisation of the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum, contrary to the position taken by O2’, while David Nicholas, a spokesman for O2’s parent company Telefonica, said of the ruling: ‘We are naturally disappointed … We believe EU legislation gives us the immediate right to use 2G spectrum for 3G services. Speedy liberalisation is in the best interest of UK consumers.’

United Kingdom, O2 UK, Ofcom, Vodafone UK