back to article Three challenges UK watchdog to a duel over mobile spectrum rules

Brit mobile operator Three has formally filed its legal challenge to cap the forthcoming spectrum auction at 37 per cent, prompting fears that extra 4G airwave capacity and the rollout of 5G could be delayed. Given the amount of noise Three has made in recent months about its intention to fight Ofcom in court, the filing comes …

  1. Mark 110 Silver badge

    Gahhhh

    I'm sure it would be better to just have one network. Then we could all access all of the spectrum. And it would cost less to run.

    Or am I being stupid?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gahhhh

      You just described a wireless version of Openreach.

      Except for the "cost less to run" part obviously.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gahhhh

        Unfortunately unless some sort of spectrum cap is put in place, EE will become your wireless openreach (maybe OFCOM are doing this intentionally, so that they can regulate wireless from their comfort zone of a market that looks like the fixed line one?).

        Make it two underlying networks, run by separate companies who aren't allowed to sell access directly to consumers (all customer-facing mobile providers effectively become MVNOs). That minimises duplication (while still allowing the possibility of resilience) and allows for some competition to lessen the chance of them becoming wireless openreaches.

        As I understand it the network providers have split into two separate camps of network sharing agreements behind the scenes, so it's almost like we're heading towards two underlying networks anyway. It would be better if all handsets could roam freely between both sets of towers though, I don't think that happens at the moment.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What really pisses me

    Is that the huge sums the telecos pay to get access to the spectrum have to be recouped from someone. Guess who that is? Yup, the subscribers. Its just a (thinly) disguised taxation.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: What really pisses me

      It's not really taxation if you don't overpay for your mobile service.

      I pay a few pounds a month, and only once in the last several years have I added another few pounds to boost the data (and that was abroad, so lots of remote data (a lot of it being mapping) being used).

      I see shops advertising £30,40,50 pound a month contracts... and I generally just walk on by.

      I *do* pay ~£30/month for a specific application for two months, but then a radio studio generates significant upload traffic - 40GB over the course of four weeks.

      That is something I am happy to pay for, and I don't see £50-60 (often easiest to buy as two months, with the 'month end' in the middle of the broadcast period) as an excessive expense for a continuous 128kbps stream (well, I have it relayed, so I don't pull data when no-one is listening) and to enable remote access for me to start the auto-DJ in case a presenter has forgotten to enable it...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What really pisses me

      How else should a user of a public resource compensate the public for monopolistic use of that resource?

    3. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: What really pisses me

      It's a business expense for the telcos, so they get to offset it against tax. That happens over several years.

      In the case of Vodafone, it gives them a name for "tax avoidance". The others probably only escape the same fate by virtue of being foreign-owned and thus having less visible UK tax affairs.

      So in a sense they pay twice over. Once in money, and a second time in reputation.

    4. scrubber

      Re: What really pisses me

      Is people with absolutely no understanding of economics.

      The amount you pay will be exactly the same if the telco pays £15bn or £15. This is known as a sunk cost and they price things to maximise profit which is based on marginal costs and marginal revenue. Where you may have a point is that the money they splurged on spectrum may delay the rollout or investment in infrastructure as they have to borrow to pay for that, and that might mean market segregation where they can charge more where they initially roll it out to a few regions.

      1. inmypjs Silver badge

        Re: What really pisses me

        "Is people with absolutely no understanding of economics"

        You should be really annoyed with yourself in that case.

  3. JimboSmith Silver badge

    Well I can see the argument Three are making. BT are allowed to buy EE and in doing so end up with the largest amount of spectrum. Three attempt to buy O2 so as not to be left out and are told to take a hike by the regulators. Then let EE-BT buy more in the forthcoming auction and really add to their dominant position. Seems perfectly fair and probably nothing to do with the fact that the blue light services will be using 4G on EE for their comms. For full disclosure I've got a phone on EE and one on Three

  4. Roland6 Silver badge

    Ofcom being two faced...

    An Ofcom spokesperson said: "It is very regrettable that the auction will now be delayed by this litigation, which will harm consumers, businesses and ultimately the UK economy. ..."

    However, Ofcom (previously Oftel) your actions over 3 decades has directly resulted in the mess we now have in the fixed line digital communications space - care to estimate the cost to the UK economy and consumers of your failure to property perform your job?

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Ofcom being two faced...

      Indeed, if they are trying "not to lose face" over the money already sunk in the auction process, maybe they should not have rolled over for the largest operator on the issue of spectrum caps?

      Once again, incompetence or shenanigans is ignored in the interest of not looking bad.

      I lose hope.

  5. Nick Kew Silver badge

    5G vs 4G?

    So what does 5G have to offer?

    More speed? More capacity? 4G is more than ample, thankyouverymuch.

    More coverage? Now that would be a worthwhile improvement. In fact, if you offered me universal coverage, I'd take 3G speeds as a tradeoff.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: 5G vs 4G?

      More MVNOs

      Google "network slicing".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 5G vs 4G?

      So what does 5G have to offer?

      Nothing - unless you have a massively improved 'full fat' fibre backhaul throughout the UK to the remotest of locations. Without a massive improvement in the fibre backhaul, 5G is a pipe dream.

      Far too much emphasis is being made in terms of the 5G mobile transmission between the device and the mast.

      Every article you read seems to omit how data gets to/from the mast. How these 5G masts will use off-site cloud processing of the radio signal to digitally process the signal/coordinate transfer between cells, how cell sizes will be smaller/much greater density, to get the coverage and provide the high data speeds/data capacity to multiple devices simultaneously.

      Why is this always omitted in press releases? Probably because it puts BT in a bad light, due to its extensive use of copper/aluminum in the local loop, and their need to push obsolete Pointless G.fast.

      You can't have blanket 5G without massively investing in Fibre, so it makes sense to do that in the local loop, and not invest in Pointless Copper Carcass G.fast.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: 5G vs 4G?

        @AC - you were doing so well before you got confused between mobile network backhaul and the residential local loop.

        Remember Virgin Media Business have contracts with EE, Three & O2 for mast backhaul...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 5G vs 4G?

          Not confused at all. You're the one who's confused to say BTWholesale don't use cabling within the BTOpenreach network to supply such masts. These masts don't somehow sit outside the local loop, especially rurally.

          Yep they are commercially supplied backhauls, where other suppliers like Virgin Media can provide such contracts, but mostly rurally, these are BT, provided by BTWholesale, but using cabling at times, controlled and maintained by BTOpenreach too, well certainly sitting in their ducts.

          To differentiate the two (especially rurally) is absolute madness, to say Fibre rollout in the local loop has nothing to do with 5G mast deployment, 5G's whole success is based on Fibre rollout in the local loop. This is the whole problem at the moment, so little joined up thinking.

  6. Making Bacon

    2G is good for me as I still use my Nokia 3310

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      good for you. one size doesnt fit all. i on the otherhand watch netflix on my way to work (hour on the train) and three fits perfectly for me as they dont charge extra for netflix traffic. 3G is fine most of the time as only SD is free.

      choices are better for everyone so the auction cap seems like a decent idea in principle.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        >i on the otherhand watch netflix on my way to work (hour on the train)

        What no tunnels and good mobile reception along your entire route? Wow! :)

        I've found using offline players, such as BBC iPlayer Download more reliable, obviously these require a little forethought. But then with tunnels and mobile signal largely restricted to stations, offline working is really the only viable approach, unless you want to spend the journey getting frustrated with varying single levels and hung sessions...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Poor Mobile coverage from Bristol Temple Meads to Birmingham by train...

        Not a chance of doing that from Bristol Temple Meads to Birmingham, 5 minutes of out Bristol the signal drops, then 5 minutes into Birmingham (Smethwick) you get it back. There is no way you can watch Netflix on the train, using the mobile signal, on this route. You'll pick up 3G/4G three or fours times on route for about a minute, then it's gone again.

  7. AndGregor

    The One Plan

    Am a three customer and upgraded last year to a new phone. Happily accepted the blurb that my package wouldn't change and unlimited means unlimited.

    Unless that is I want to tether for the two weeks I take the family on holiday. Is surprising how much data the kids can use on YouTube.

    Not overly bothered about being lied to as I got a new shiny and there are ways around the tethering cap, if you feel so inclined.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: The One Plan

      they have changed t&c now so lots of people must have complained. the all-you-can-eat can tether 30gb now. other packages can tether the headline rate.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The One Plan

      >Is surprising how much data the kids can use on YouTube.

      I got the kids iphones on Three, a nice feature of iOS (*) is that you can relatively easily restrict individual applications (and lock the restriction). My son has accepted that Spotify and YouTube don't load new content outside the home WiFi...

      Good thing home is on unlimited, son typically consumes circa 70GB during the 2 week half-term breaks and that was before he discovered he could chat and multiplayer game with his mates via the Xbox One...

      (*) I'm sure it is possible to do similar with Android, but suspect will need to root phone and use a third-party app - hints/pointers any one?

  8. Roo Stercogburn

    That Watchdog looks odd...

    ...can't quite put my paw on it but there's something wrong with the dog in the watchdog pic on the article.

  9. Dave Stevenson
    Unhappy

    How about sorting out 3G or 4G first?

    I'd be happy if just one of the networks offered me any real coverage at home (about 7 miles outside Cambridge).

    We used to have perfect O2 2G coverage, but they then deployed 3G/4G from the next village and turned off that 2G cell. Now we get nothing from O2. None of the other networks offer sensible coverage either.

    So much for fixing not-spots, and the complaints process gets nowhere either :-(

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