Three UK could launch legal challenge against upcoming spectrum auction

24 Mar 2017

Dave Dyson, the CEO of British mobile network operator (MNO) Three UK, has threatened to launch a legal challenge to sale of spectrum needed for both enhancing 4G services and launching 5G, unless remedial action is taken to ensure smaller operators are not disadvantaged in the process.

According to the Financial Times, Dyson beleives his company would have ‘no option’ but to launch a legal challenge to the auction process unless local telecoms regulator Ofcom adds more safeguards. Both Three UK and rival O2 UK have called for a cap on the amount of spectrum held by the nation’s four MNOs with a view to ensuring that EE (now owned by fixed line incumbent BT) and Vodafone UK do not dominate the sector by holding the lion’s share of the airwaves. For its part, Ofcom has already proposed barring BT from bidding for some of the spectrum with a view to addressing any imbalance, though Mr Dyson has argued that BT and Vodafone could still bid strategically to hurt Three and O2.

Ofcom is expected to sell off spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands later this year, with a total of 190MHz set to go under the hammer, broken down as: 40MHz in the 2.3GHz band (2350MHz-2390MHz), and 150MHz at 3.4GHz (3410MHz-3480MHz, 3500MHz-3580MHz). As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the regulator launched a consultation on the matter between November 2016 and January 2017. Three is expected to review the outcome of this consultation – which is due out within weeks – before deciding its next move. The report notes, however, that the ultimate decision regarding such a challenge will be made by executives at the cellco’s parent company, Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison, rather than by those at the British unit itself.

United Kingdom, Hutchison 3G UK (Three UK), Ofcom