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28 November 2016
| James Pearce
Three UK is spearheading a campaign challenging Ofcom to introduce a 30% spectrum cap aimed at curbing BT’s dominance of the mobile sector.
BT is currently the UK’s largest mobile
operator following its £12.5 billion acquisition of EE
earlier in the year, and owns around 42% of spectrum, according
to the MakeTheAirFair campaign.
The campaign, launched by Hutchison-owned Three alongside
TalkTalk, CityFibre, Gamma, Relish and the Federation of
Communication Services, challenges Ofcom CEO Sharon White to
make sure no operator can hold more than 30% of UK
Dave Dyson, CEO at Three UK, said: "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
"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."
White recently introduced a cap as part of the upcoming
£70 million spectrum auction for the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz
bands. The cap will limit bidders from possessing more than
255MHz of any spectrum band, preventing BT from bidding on the
The cap only applies to "immediately useable" spectrum, and
the 3.4GHz band has been earmarked for 5G, meaning BT will be
free to bid on it.
The MakeTheAirFair campaign claims 65% of UK consuers want a
cap on how much one company can own of a publicly used
resource, such as spectrum, based on a survey carried out by
YouGov on behalf of Three.
To encourage consumers to get involved in the campaign, the
telcos have created artwork "transforming" White into a
superhero (see above). This artwork will be ran across several
advertising channels, it said.
Mark Collins, director of strategy and public affairs at
CityFibre, added: "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
"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."
Three attacked Ofcom when it joined the Fix Britain's
Internet campaign, which is lobbying to split BT from
infrastructure arm Openreach.
A spokesperson for the regulator said: "The UK mobile market
remains among the most competitive in Europe, and has been
serving customers well. We’ve announced plans to
meet the growing demand for mobile broadband, releasing more
airwaves in a way that safeguards competition and encourages
innovation. We welcome evidence from all parties before we
finalise our decisions."