10/14/2011 9:44:09 AM
Vodafone CEO lays into Three over spectrum
Vodafone CEO Guy Laurence launched an attack this week on rival network Three, criticising its request to the Government and communications regulator Ofcom for spectrum in the forthcoming 4G auction.
Three has the smallest amount of spectrum among the networks and believes it should get more to rebalance the current allocation and ensure a competitive market in the UK.
Laurence said: ‘Ofcom wants to ensure a competitive market in the UK, but by Three’s own admission that already exists. Recently Three’s management stated they are gaining four iPhone customers from O2, for every one they lose.
‘Any further intervention to support them would appear unjustifiable given that they have confirmed they are more than able to stand on their own two feet. We should remember they are not some small start-up, they are part of a company (Hutchison Whampoa) the size of Barclays Bank.
‘Three have argued for a handout, because they argue they have been disadvantaged by not being in the market 20 years ago. How can this be a credible argument? If we entered Hutchison’s home market in Hong Kong now, would the Chinese government offer us a handout because we didn’t start 20 years ago? I don’t think so.’
A Three spokeman said: “This isn’t about Three or Vodafone, it’s about a 4G spectrum auction that sustains the consumer benefits delivered by the 3G auction. That auction resulted in a competitive market for mobile data. This has been put at risk by the decision to liberalise legacy 2G spectrum in January 2011 without any clear supporting reallocation process, as has happened across other European markets. The sooner a level playing field is restored, the better it will be for UK consumers.’
Three has pointed out on previous occasions that it is the only operator that pays in full for its spectrum. Others have been given free spectrum and are paying well under market rates for it. Three has argued that this gives the other UK networks an incentive for delaying the auction, as they will have to pay full fees on their existing spectrum, as well as having to buy new spectrum when the auction commences.