British Telecom Denied Bid for More Spectrum, It Only Owns 45 Percent of It

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ukOnly Three, O2 and Vodafone can bid for 2.3GHz spectrum in the next U.K. mobile auction, according to the Highbury Clock. U.K. telecoms regulator Ofcom is on the record saying that BT/EE can’t bid in next year’s auction because “it already owns 45 percent of useable U.K. mobile spectrum.”

EE boss Marc Allera, in response to Ofcom’s 4G spectrum ban on the telecom giant, said in a statement to Ars Technica: “While we don’t agree that competition measures should be introduced for this auction, we will now examine Ofcom’s detailed proposal carefully and respond to the consultation.”

Highbury Clock reported that the upcoming auction, which Ofcom has capped at 255MHz of new spectrum for all bidders, “will help meet mobile broadband demand and future 5G mobile.” Ofcom said the 3.4GHz band is central to the rollout of 5G across Europe. The 2.3GHz spectrum will be available to England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland. The 3.4GHz spectrum will be available to all of the U.K.  

Additionally, Highbury Clock noted that if U.K. Broadband both participates in the auction and applies for a replacement license, “the frequencies making up its current holding will change to enable all users of the 3.4GHz band to have contiguous spectrum holdings. These airwaves could be used immediately after release to provide extra capacity, meaning faster downloads and internet browsing for consumers.”

Kester Mann, principal analyst at CCS Insight, stated “the proposed restraints placed on BT/EE show that Ofcom is concerned that spectrum asymmetry could harm United Kingdom mobile competition over the coming years. This is equal to 42 percent of available spectrum including the 2.3 GHz band but excluding the 3.4 GHz band, equal to BT/EE’s current share of spectrum available.”

While Ofcom placed coverage obligations on the 4G auction of 2013 to winning bidders, those reportedly will not be in place this time around.

November 23, 2016

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