Three UK, TalkTalk, CityFibre, Federation of Communication Services, Gamma and Relish have joined together to form MakeTheAirFair, a campaign group demanding a 30% spectrum cap before the next auction takes place.
This cap would force EE to sell off existing spectrum, a move which Three and their coalition partners believe is vital to maintaining competition in the mobile network space.
Three has previously lobbied unsuccessfully for the 30% cap, which Ofcom rejected when it announced the rules of the auction earlier this month, with the notable concession of banning EE from bidding for any additional 4G frequency.
If Three and O2 had merged in early 2016, the combined operator would have had one of the largest spectrum holdings in the UK, but Ofcom, the CMA and the EC all concluded that a four player market was necessary in driving competition. This has led Three to campaign for a fairer spectrum share to enable this four player market, previously explaining that it cannot compete with the financial power of EE or Vodafone at auction. Three is owned by multinational infrastructure giant Hutchison, and has a global revenue of £28.09 billion.
The MakeTheAirFair coalition is calling for consumers to “join the fight” by tweeting and signing the Ofcom consultation for the spectrum auction, it’s using a super-hero version of Ofcom CEO Sharon White to promote the campaign, projecting the image onto Ofcom’s London headquarters and other famous landmarks.
The campaign’s supporters released the following statements explaining the move:
Dave Dyson, CEO at Three UK
‘The UK mobile market is broken at a critical time when it should be leading and not lagging almost all other developed countries. Ofcom must prove it is on the side of consumers and apply a 30% cap on total spectrum ownership following next year’s auction.
‘Spectrum is a national asset that should benefit every citizen. If it’s all controlled by one or two massive businesses then you can’t have effective competition and everyone loses out. This is the moment for the British public to stand up and fight for real choice and better mobile services.’
Mark Collins, director of strategy and public affairs at CityFibre
‘We are at a critical point in determining the future of the UK mobile market. With growing investment in the next generation of mobile network infrastructure, the time is right to protect the viability of that competitive market.
‘As a challenger in our market, CityFibre is wholly aligned to the change this campaign seeks to achieve. The regulator must ensure that the upcoming auction is designed to improve services for all.’
Chris Pateman, CEO at the Federation of Communication Services
‘In every other market, business people are used to having a choice of good services from a variety of suppliers. We owe it to Government and business to deliver real choice and proper competition for the high quality voice and data connections upon which they rely to trade in the modern world.’
Sources at BT had previously suggested that if Three wants more spectrum, it should pay for it just as they have. When announcing the auction rules, Ofcom’s spectrum group director Philip Marnick stated, ‘Spectrum is the essential resource that fuels the UK’s economy. This auction can help ensure that UK consumers can access the mobile data services they need, and that operators can continue to innovate and build for the future.
‘The UK has long benefitted from strong mobile competition. We are designing the auction to ensure everyone benefits from a market that continues to innovate and serve them well.’
Commenting on the spectrum rules last week, O2 seemed to agree with Three’s argument with a spokesperson stating, ‘It is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t go far enough to satisfy Ofcom’s stated aim of sustaining four companies that compete effectively and independently on coverage and quality.
The auction presents an opportunity to rebalance spectrum and level the playing field across the mobile sector. We will engage with Ofcom during the consultation process to ensure that customers get the best outcome ensuring a competitive four player market for mobile services.'
Mobile approached Ofcom, EE, Vodafone and O2 for comment and will update the story when it becomes available.