Everything Everywhere, the joint venture between British mobile network operators Orange UK and T-Mobile UK, has reportedly appointed Morgan Stanley to handle the sale of some of the spectrum it currently holds in the 1800MHz band. According to the Financial Times, while the UK’s other cellcos have, as perhaps been expected, been cited as potential bidders for the spectrum, it is thought that large technology groups may also look to bid. Indeed, the frequencies are likely to attract any company with an interest in setting up a 4G network in the UK, after Everything Everywhere called on British telecoms regulator Ofcom for permission to use the band for Long Term Evolution-based (LTE-based) services last month. It is understood that the batch of spectrum that will be put up for sale by the operator could generate as much as GBP400 million (USD635 million), while would-be bidders will also reportedly need to have the capability of establishing a network. Commenting on the development, Olaf Swantee, CEO of Everything Everywhere, noted: ‘Whoever we sell to has to be approved by the competition authorities. The test is someone who can provide genuine competition.’
The frequency sale comes in line with the terms of regulatory approval for the Orange UK/T-Mobile UK tie-up; as noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in March 2010 the European Commission (EC) announced that it had given conditional approval to the deal, although it noted that among the terms of the approval was the requirement that the combined entity must relinquish a quarter of its spectrum in the 1800MHz band, as it was claimed the duo’s combined 1800MHz holdings would give them a significant advantage over competitors, especially when it came to deploying LTE services.
Meanwhile, Mr Swantee has reiterated his company’s belief that permission will be granted for the refarming of the 1800MHz band to allow 4G services, despite vocal opposition to the proposals from a number of Everything Everywhere’s rivals. ‘We are confident that this spectrum will be liberalised [and] we can get 4G before the end of the year. The time period of any advantage [that EE may have] is not long,’ the executive said.