Three UK confirms intention to initiate legal challenge over 2.3GHz/3.4GHz auction rules

10 Aug 2017

British mobile network operator (MNO) Three UK is preparing to launch a legal challenge over the rules for the country’s upcoming of spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, according to The Register. With the cellco having argued that the rules – which Ofcom outlined last month – failed to address competition concerns, a representative for Three UK confirmed it has notified the regulator concerning its intention to seek a judicial review of the matter in the High Court. In terms of the timings for this review, the MNO has suggested it should not delay commercial deployments of 5G technology, noting: ‘We anticipate a short process and a court decision by early 2018. Ofcom does not expect commercial 5G services in the UK before 2020, so this short process will not impact the availability of 5G to UK consumers.’

Explaining the reasoning behind its decision, a statement by a Three UK regarding the matter added: ‘For a relatively short process, we feel it is a proportionate response to request an independent review of Ofcom’s proposal, which we feel unduly puts at risk its stated objective of a competitive four-player market and is to the detriment of UK consumers.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, as per Ofcom’s plans it will impose two different restrictions on bidders, which will limit the amount of spectrum that can be won in the 2.3GHz band, while also placing an overall cap on the total frequencies that any single company can lay claim to across both bands in aggregate. In line with this, Ofcom has said it will introduce a cap of 255MHz on the ‘immediately useable’ spectrum that any one operator can hold following the auction; this cap, the regulator noted, means that BT/EE will not be able to bid for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band. In addition, Ofcom will implement a cap of 340MHz on the overall amount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold once the sale process concludes. As a result of the watchdog’s stipulation, it has been noted that BT/EE will only be able to win a maximum of 85MHz in the 3.4GHz band, while Vodafone UK will be pegged to a total of 160MHz across both 3.4GHz bands; based on the current spectrum holdings, however, there will be no restriction on the amount of spectrum any other bidder could win.

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