In the latest mobile data shakeup, BT and EE won’t be allowed to bid on the new 4g spectrum, according to a new report by Ofcom.
The telecommunications regulator will be applying an upper limit of 255 MHz on the amount of “immediately useable” spectrum to stop any one company from holding too large a portion. That’s bad news for BT (who acquired EE earlier this year), but good news for smaller operators who want a share.
This comes after Ofcom’s announcement that 190Mhz of spectrum in the 2.3Ghz and 3.4Ghz bands would be up for auction. That’s an increase of almost a third of the total mobile spectrum currently available in the UK – but BT/EE won’t be allowed to participate because they already have too much.
Currently BT/EE are in possession of 45%. This is followed by Vodafone with 28%, Three who have 15% and O2 with 12%. But the new addition will lower BT/EE’s share to just 42%. Previously used by the Ministry of Defence, the added spectrum will soon be used by mobile companies to provide 4G.
Unsurprisingly, EE Chief Executive Marc Allera said his firm disagreed with the cap. In a statement to TechWeekEurope he said: “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.”
This follows an announcement that EE comes out top for mobile network data performance in the UK.
Despite this, other operators are concerned that Ofcom haven’t gone far enough with their latest cap. In a statement, Chief Executive Dave Dyson said: “Ofcom exists to promote competition and protect consumers but it has once again shown it is not willing to make the big decisions needed to deliver the best outcome for the UK.”
He continued: “The mobile industry is failing customers and Ofcom has showed it has no interest in addressing that. A 30% cap on total spectrum ownership and a spectrum for smaller operators are the only measures that will preserve competition for the benefit of UK customers.”
Despite the knock-back, BT still look set to go ahead with their London roll-out of 1Gbps FTTP broadband.
There is nothing to suggest that this cap would be extended to cover the spectrum set aside to cover 5G when it eventually launches. Operators have been told they have until 30th January 2017 to respond.