back to article Ofcom sees off legal threat over 5G auction terms

Ofcom has seen off a legal challenge to its spectrum auction by BT's EE and Three today. UK mobe network Three launches legal challenge over spectrum auction READ MORE The action had been a response to the regulator's decision to set a limit on how much spectrum individual operators could buy – in order level the playing …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was going to say things would be so much easier if all the operators just had to share spectrum and were allocated it on a dynamic basis based on the number of concurrent users...

    After all, train companies don't insist on having their own lines put down, then refuse to let others use them.

    However.....the rail situation just shows that if they DID do this, the go-between would just be a massive money sink that buried everything in red-tape...and everybody's bills would go up to pay for all the new administrators...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT and EE sit on loads of spectrum because they were the ones who spent big at the last big sale.

    Other operators are sat around whinging because they didn't have the forethought to invest back then.

    The sale went well below expectations as well, now they're squabbling over whats left and are worried they will pay a premium.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "BT and EE sit on loads of spectrum because they were the ones who spent big at the last big sale."

      Nothing to do with that merger resulting in previously separate ownerships becoming combined use then?

      Spectral holding limits are there to ensure a fair and equitable market. Not only should operators be restricted as to how much they can hold, it should be allocated on a use it or lose it basis.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Nothing to do with that merger resulting in previously separate ownerships becoming combined use then?"

        Indeed. This is exactly why BT/EE have a dominant position in the market. Nothing to do with spending big.

        In the 4G Auction in 2012, EE bought a large chunk of spectrum that added to the already merged Orange and T-Mobile 2G/3G spectrum they already had (and re-factored quite a bit of their legacy 2G spectrum to 4G), and then BT themselves bought another chunk under the guise of a company called 'Niche Spectrum Ventures' with Ian Livingston at the time telling Ofcom they have 'No plans to become a national mobile operator'.

        We all know how that ended up....

        Problem with Ofcom at the moment is that the large telcos are pulling the strings and Sharon White is just being a puppet. Ofcom is meant to be on the side of the consumer, not on the side of the large telcos.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Problem with Ofcom at the moment is that the large telcos are pulling the strings and Sharon White is just being a puppet. Ofcom is meant to be on the side of the consumer, not on the side of the large telcos.

          I think this gives real grounds for further appeal.

          Ofcom's legal obligations are clear:

          Section 3(1): "It shall be the principal duty of Ofcom, in carrying out their functions;

          (a) to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and

          (b) to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition”

          [Source: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/what-is-ofcom also see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/notes/division/2 ]

          However, the judge was very clear in his summing up:

          In the Decision it sought to strike a delicate balance between protecting competition and consumers, on the one hand, and setting restrictive caps which were not disproportionate to BT/EE.

          [Source: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/12/court-rules-favour-ofcom-ee-three-uks-5g-spectrum-fight.html]

          Nowhere in Ofcoms regulatory duties is it required to "strike a delicate balance...".

          So Ofcom now need to justify its approach wholly within the confines of its legal and regulatory obligations.

          1. Philippe

            Spot

            First Ofcom allowed EE to reform the 2G/3G Spectrum for 4G with no remedy

            Then they allowed the merger of BT and EE with no remedy

            Now, the reject Three appeal with no remedy

            How on Earth is this behaviour in the interest of the consumer?

            I don’t want to sound all tinfoil hat here but it surely looks like someone is being nicely wined and dined.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    at first glance there would appear to be a good argument for a single entity which runs the physical network (towers etc) and holds the spectrum.

    then phone companies access that network at pre agreed costs with all companies being offered the same pricing schemes (there could be discounts offered for companies willing to use unpopular spectrum areas which would give smaller operators a possible toehold until they can grow their business enough to afford usage of more popular spectrum)

    then of course reality creeps in and you realise that the single company would represent a single point of failure and would probably increase prices as much as it could (since there is no competition) before being broken up by the gov't under monopoly rules

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Openreach for the airwaves

      Nope, can't see any potential issues with that.

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    *cough* Yes, sure EE... *cough*

    "We’re pleased that the court has reached a decision so quickly and are now looking ahead to investing in the best mobile experience across the UK.”

    If that's the corporate mantra, then why is your existing 3G and 4G so shit?

  5. Simon Rockman

    This is all just posturing

    They are shaping up for the real battle: 800MHz. Whihc Ofcom has said will be allocated/sold/auctioned some time before 2022.

    BT wants to be free of caps so that it can buy the 800MHz. Ofcom only cares about looking good to government by getting as much money as it can out of telcos. So Ofcom wants as many bidders as possible.

    1. Philippe

      Re: This is all just posturing

      You mean 700 MHz but your point stands

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