UK mobile operators gave a cautious welcome to the final rules for the auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz 4G spectrum, announced today (24 July 2012) by the telecoms regulator Ofcom.
The operators are now faced with the task of ploughing through a dozen documents (one of which has seven annexes) running to over 1,000 pages, so their initial reactions are hedged with caution. The process has been heavily delayed, according to Ofcom, by the constant threat of litigation from the mobile operators.
Ofcom CEO Ed Richards said at a press conference today that it was impossible to satisfy everyone as their positions were often completely opposed. He said: ‘It is a racing certainty that there will be objections.’
An Everything Everywhere spokesperson said: ‘Today’s publication of the 4G auction rules is a crucial step towards bringing the benefits of faster mobile speeds and better connectivity to Britain, as well as stimulating £5.5bn investment into the UK economy.
‘While there are still some elements of today’s proposal which we don’t think are in the interests of competition or consumers, we are pleased that Ofcom is moving in the right direction and we recognise that we need to get this process moving now before the UK falls further behind the rest of the world.
‘However, the auction is only one step towards bringing 4G to Britain. Everything Everywhere is committed to bringing 4G to the UK this year, and the next milestone will be the regulator’s response to our request to roll out 4G over our existing 1800MHz spectrum without further delay.’
Ofcom’s Richards said that EE’s request to use 1800MHz for 4G was a separate issue and was under consideration. A decision is expected well before the end of the year.
A Three spokesman said: ‘Ofcom’s decision on the structure of the spectrum auction will have a lasting effect on the choice of services and value available to mobile consumers. We are working through the detail of this very substantial document to evaluate what it means for both consumers and competition in the UK mobile market.’
A Vodafone UK spokesperson offered: ‘A competitive market for the next generation of mobile internet services will bring substantial benefits to British consumers, businesses and the wider economy. Ofcom appears to have created a mechanism to deliver the spectrum needed to run competitive 4G services and we welcome the work it has done. We also support the regulator’s desire to see 4G services delivered to as many people as possible. However, we will obviously need to study today’s lengthy documents to make sure they deliver the fair and open auction that this country needs.’
Finally, an O2 spokesperson said: ‘Ofcom’s detailed rules for the auction represent a significant step towards 4G launch in the UK. Whilst Ofcom has taken a number of our suggestions on board, they are combined with other changes to the previous proposals. We will need to study the package in detail before responding to the Notice on the Regulations, which puts the rules into law.’