Britain’s mobile network operators look set to clash over spectrum matters, with The Telegraph reporting that Three UK has called for strict limits on frequencies held by its rivals ahead of an upcoming 4G spectrum auction.
With Ofcom expected to publish proposals for adjustments to the sale process in September, according to industry sources, Three UK’s chief executive David Dyson has said the regulator should look to prevent any operator from emerging from the sale process with more than 30% of the total mobile spectrum, while also demanding that 42% of the frequencies be ring-fenced in its favour. Seeking to counter criticism of these plans, Mr Dyson was cited as saying: ‘Our proposal is not that we get the spectrum below market value, but that we pay a fair price relative to the scale of the business. It is a scale game. You can afford to pay more if you have a bigger customer base.’ For its part, Three UK has said it would be willing to offer assurances that its pricing will come down if it gets ‘support’ in the spectrum auction.
Were Ofcom to follow Three UK’s suggestions, EE, which currently holds more than 40% of the country’s mobile spectrum, could be forced to give up a chunk of its allocation; Vodafone UK, meanwhile, is just shy of the proposed threshold. Unsurprisingly, rival operators have reacted unfavourably, with Vodafone UK said to be examining legal options to stop Ofcom changing the rules in the forthcoming spectrum sale – the cellco’s CEO Jeroen Hoencamp was cited as saying: ‘Of course we will oppose it, and we are looking at it now.’