A much tougher industry-wide campaign is required to ensure there are no further obstacles to the long-awaited spectrum auction scheduled for later this year.
Industry regulator Ofcom has been accused of leaving the process open to possible delays and the Q4 date could be under threat.
This follows well-documented protests from Vodafone and 02 over the regulator’s decision to allow rival operator Everything Everywhere to launch 4G LTE services by refarming its 1800MHz spectrum. Both companies feel this will give Everything Everywhere a headstart before the rules of the auction have been concluded.
Vodafone’s Guy Laurence pulled no punches over the regulator’s handling of the matter, saying: ‘Ofcom appears to have taken leave of its senses.’ And O2 also came out strongly against the proposals, saying it was ‘concerned that Ofcom’s proposal to allow one operator to launch 4G early on its existing spectrum is contradictory to its objective of delivering a competitive market environment with four competing players’.
And now, despite Ofcom’s decision to extend the consultation period until May, concerns appear to be growing rather than diminishing.
Meanwhile, Three CEO David Dyson has accused Ofcom of using a ‘flawed’ method to draw up its 4G auction proposals and urged the regulator to reconsider its ‘irrational’ decision to remove the sub-1GHz guarantee. He is particularly opposed to Ofcom’s position on low frequency spectrum, saying: ‘As a consumer, and not the CEO of a mobile operator, my clear request to Ofcom is to reconsider their technical analysis and position on low frequency spectrum, and reconclude on a solution that more closely follows every other regulator in Europe.’
Although Ofcom has a difficult job in trying to please everyone, it is vital that it doesn’t allow the differences between the operators to escalate into legal action, resulting in the delaying of the spectrum auction.
The UK is already lagging behind the US and some European countries and cannot afford any further delays. So I’m urging Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, to keep a close eye on how Ofcom proceeds with this vital issue in the next few months.