Vodafone UK calls for 5G auction to be abandoned in favour of ‘mandated award’

16 Jul 2020

British mobile network operator (MNO) Vodafone UK is calling on the government to cancel the country’s upcoming auction of 5G-suitable spectrum, according to the Financial Times. In its place, the cellco has suggested a ‘mandated award’, whereby frequencies would be distributed between all four domestic MNOs – EE, O2 UK, Three UK and Vodafone UK – for a total reserve price of around GBP1.2 billion (USD1.5 billion).

The calls for a revised distribution method for the spectrum come amid concerns related to the financial impact of the government’s recent decision which requires that all Huawei equipment be removed from 5G networks by 2027 and bans on the purchase of any new 5G equipment from the Chinese vendor from the end of this year. Here, Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK’s CEO, was cited as saying: ‘Return on investment in telecoms in the UK is amongst the lowest in the world … With additional money being taken out of the mobile industry from [the government’s] decision on Huawei, now is the time to focus on ensuring operators can still afford to invest in the network this country deserves.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the UK’s 5G spectrum auction had been due to take place in H2 2020, but the process is currently paused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a specific sale date has yet to be confirmed by Ofcom. Earlier this year further opposition to the sale process emerged from another of the country’s cellcos emerged, when in May 2020 O2 UK threatened a legal challenge over the rules governing the auction; is understood that the cellco’s complaint related to a technical point about how the blocks of spectrum on offer were to be sold, with O2 reportedly calling on Ofcom to harmonise the lots of spectrum so that they are contiguous – instead of awarding blocks in fragmented slices.

United Kingdom, O2 UK, Ofcom, Vodafone UK