6/12/2008 11:01:00 AM
Legal challenge delays 3G spectrum auction
Ofcom has announced a delay of the 3G expansion auction after T-Mobile and O2 launched a legal challenge.
The regulator was scheduled to start the application process next month for an auction to take place in September.
All the operators are expected to bid in the auction as the spectrum would allow them to expand their services using 3G or next-generation technology.
O2 and T-Mobile said that they are unhappy with the timing of the auction because they do not know how much spectrum to bid for until Ofcom has completed a separate 2G spectrum reclaim.
Ofcom is taking back some of O2’s and Vodafone’s 2G spectrum and will be dividing it for 3G use, but how much spectrum Ofcom will ‘refarm’ and how much each operator will get is still undecided.
This has led O2 and T-Mobile to take action against the 3G expansion band plans until the 2G refarm is resolved.
A spokeswoman for Ofcom said: ‘Because T-Mobile and O2 are putting in a legal challenge, we decided not to open for applications in July or August. They are not happy with the timing.’
Susan Sweet, director of ICT policy and regulation at consultant firm Mott MacDonald Schema, questioned the motivation of the two operators for launching legal action.
She said: ‘How would T-Mobile and O2 benefit from trying to stop the auction? It depends on what they want the spectrum for.
‘One possibility for these operators wanting to delay the release of the spectrum could be that the technology they want the spectrum for is not ready yet.
‘Operators are looking at the spectrum to build next-generation technologies, such as 4G or Wimax, but 4G technologies are not as advanced as Wimax, for example, so it couldn’t be rolled out as fast. Operators would benefit if the spectrum became available later when the technology is ready,’ she added.
T-Mobile’s spokesman said the operator couldn’t comment or give more detail on the legal challenge or its plans to use the spectrum.