Making the air ..a bit.. more fair

There’s long been discussion about the share each network has of the mobile spectrum. Three UK, among others, have also started a campaign to stop one or two networks from being able to grab the larger slices.

Today Ofcom have revealed that they will indeed put a cap on the maximum amount of mobile spectrum a company can own, but it’s somewhat higher than the 30% Three wanted. The regulator has instead announced that a 37% cap will be put in place.

Currently EE / BT have 42%. By contrast, Vodafone have 29%, Three have 15% and O2 has 14%.

Shortly 190 MHz of spectrum (in two frequency bands) will be auctioned off. The regulator will also be selling off 40MHz of the 2.3GHz band, but the new rules mean that EE won’t be able to bid for this. 150 MHz of the 3.4GHz band will also be sold off for 5G.

Three UK are less than happy, and a press release from Dave Dyson (Three CEO) states that…

Ofcom’s proposal is a kick in the teeth for all consumers and in particular for the near-200,000 people who signed up to the ‘Make the Air Fair’ campaign.

By making decisions that increase the dominance of the largest operators, Ofcom is damaging competition, restricting choice and pushing prices up for the very consumers that it is meant to protect.

The mobile market is imbalanced and failing customers. Ofcom has shown little interest in tackling the problem. We will consider our response as a matter of urgency.

Ofcom have responded by saying that Three have given “an overly pessimistic view of its position” and tell us that…

Three now has more spectrum. After acquiring UK Broadband in February, the operator Three has access to 40 MHz of mobile spectrum in the 3.4GHz band, plus 84 MHz in the 3.6 to 3.8GHz band.

They also note that Three also has 20 MHz of spectrum in the 1400MHz band, which is now becoming usable for mobile.