Get it right
On the last comment by 'Anonymous Coward' - which competitors are you thinking of that paid for their spectrum?
All four operators which are licensed to use 900MHz or 1800MHz spectrum for GSM (O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange), were given those licences for free. Each of those pays an annual spectrum fee to Ofcom, in the region on £16m.
Those four plus Hutchison 3G acquired licences to operate UMTS at 2.1GHz, paying an aggregate £22bn in the big 3G auction. This was effectively a bid to stay in the market, as it appeared (at the time) to be the only opportunity to acquire an option to offer the next generation of technology, at a time when the consumer market was booming. The high aggregate fee was a consequence of the anticipated demand for advanced services, and an auction which was very well designed - at least from the government's point of view. [NB the £22bn went straight to the HM Treasury. You can think of it as a tax on future profits, paid by the shareholders of each of the successful bidders. Those shareholders will include, indirectly, most UK workers with a commercially-provided pension since Vodafone and BT (owner at the time of O2, then Cellnet) are major cap stocks which feature in most pension managers' portfolios.]
What other competitors? WiFi operators use unlicensed spectrum at 2.4GHz. No fee on allocation, no annual fee to Ofcom. Pipex Wireless (or Freedom4 whatever) and UK Broadband acquired their licences to operate 'fixed' wireless access systems at 3.6GHz, this time at auction.
The point of this article is that Ofcom's proposals on 'refarming' represent a major redistribution of spectrum rights. This redistribution would remove a very significant amount capacity from O2 and Vodafone, to the practical benefit of T-Mobile and Orange. Ofcom claims that the benefit derives from other operators being able to offer services at 900MHz, with the better propagation characteristics provided by this band compared with 1800MHz or 2.1GHz. It is debatable whether the Communications Act 2003 was intended to promote such interventionist activity, or indeed whether it would actually benefit UK consumers in any material way.
Sorry for a dull post - but this is my job and it is irritating to read an endless stream of partly-informed posts. Not sure there is an IT angle, though.