10/21/2009 12:35:00 PM
Operators clash over spectrum proposals
Operators have been left bickering after the Government’s latest proposals on the reallocation and auction of wireless spectrum.
In a consultation document published last week, ministers confirmed their intention to follow Independent Spectrum Broker Kip Meek’s proposals on spectrum reallocation.
Under the proposals, neither Vodafone nor O2 will be forced to give up any of their 900MHz.
However, a ‘regulatory remedy’ is proposed to prevent a merged Orange and T-Mobile owning too big a share of the 1800MHz spectrum. In effect, this would see the OFT and Competition Commission decide the spectrum cap level for the merged company.
O2 said the merger threatened any consensus between operators on spectrum reallocation, adding: ‘This must be addressed by the Government and the competition authorities that will review the proposed merger, if the consensus that underpins the proposed direction is to be maintained.’
Vodafone echoed O2’s concerns: ‘The recently announced consolidation in the UK market will require further careful review of spectrum holdings to ensure competition is safeguarded.’
However, T-Mobile weighed in against both O2 and Vodafone, saying it was ‘disappointed’ that the paper did not propose the redistribution of the 900MHz spectrum. It said: ‘Refarming of 900MHz spectrum will be permitted from mid-2010, enabling Vodafone and O2 to roll out 3G sites at 900MHz.
‘We support that restrictions should be applied on the deployment of 3G over 900MHz until mid-2012, but think that they should apply until 2013 when 800MHz is available nationally, and strongly urge this restriction applies regardless of consolidation.’
T-Mobile also dismissed concerns that its merger with Orange could delay the spectrum auction. It said the report accounts for the ‘likely impact’ of the merger, making it ‘unlikely a delay will occur in either the auction or the approval of the joint venture’.
An Orange spokeswoman said: ‘The debate has moved on from the focus of releasing 900MHz. The Government had the foresight to make 800MHz available, so now it is imperative that Ofcom ensures that sufficient 800 MHz spectrum is cleared and made available in the appropriate timeframe for the consumer to benefit from a competitive environment.’
3 declined to make specific comments on the proposals.