Three CEO Dave Dyson has urged Ofcom to protect the network in the next spectrum auction, claiming a combined BT/EE will have the financial muscle to outbid rivals.
The UK chief expressed concerns that the newly merged entity could make life extremely difficult for smaller operators looking to boost their spectrum portfolio. The last spectrum, due December 2015, was delayed after Three and O2 threatened Ofcom with legal action.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Dyson urged the UK regulator to rebalance the market and issue restrictions on Vodafone and BT, calling for the latter to be forced to give up some existing spectrum.
‘The combination of BT and EE is incredibly strong financially,’ he said, ‘it has got the financial ability to outcompete everyone in the market in how much they are willing to pay,’ he said.
‘Potentially, given how much spectrum they are already sitting on, BT is incentivised to strategically bid in the next auction to restrict the other operators in the market from increasing their spectrum portfolio . . . That could make life difficult.
‘Hopefully Ofcom will make some pro-competition choices in the design of the auction and ideally starts to rebalance the distortion. The UK has the most unbalanced spectrum ownership of all the countries in Europe. We need competitive restraints to stop the imbalance getting worse.’
Dyson’s comments come as the takeover of O2 by Three UK owners CK Hutchison was rejected by the European watchdog, who said the deal would negatively impact competition. Hutch had previously stated that the merger was necessary to give the UK a network that could compete alongside a combined BT/EE business.