Court of Appeals rejects Three UK’s bid to appeal over upcoming spectrum auction rules

14 Feb 2018

UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom has said it can now push forward with the auction of spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, after it was confirmed that a London court had blocked cellco Three UK from launching a fresh legal challenge related to the proposed rules for the sale. An Ofcom spokeperson was cited by Reuters as saying: ‘The Court of Appeal has very firmly rejected Three’s application for permission to appeal on all grounds … We welcome this decision, and will now press ahead with releasing these important airwaves. This new capacity will allow mobile companies to offer more reliable reception, and to prepare for future 5G services.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in December 2017 EE took issue with Ofcom’s decision to implement a rule for the sale which would limit companies to holding more than 37% of usable spectrum by 2020. It had instead argued that this was too much, and was pushing for a cap of 30%. While appeals from both it and rival EE – the latter by contrast arguing that spectrum caps for the 3.4GHz band should be removed – were both rejected last month, Three swiftly indicated its intention to take the matter to the Court of Appeals.

Now, in the wake of the latest judgement, Three has said it is disappointed by the ruling, though stood by its decision to appeal, with a spokesperson noting: ‘First of all this has not caused any delay to the delivery of 5G services to UK consumers which are not expected to rollout until 2019/20, according to Ofcom … But more importantly, our appeal is about competition in the UK mobile market and spectrum distribution is the single biggest factor in maintaining a competitive market.’

United Kingdom, BT Group (incl. Openreach), Hutchison 3G UK (Three UK), Ofcom