UK operator drops legal threat

15 December 2010 |


The UK’s largest mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere has dropped its legal threat over proposals for 3G spectrum allocation.

In accordance with European Commission objectives on improving digital infrastructure, the UK government has planned to reallocate spectrum in the 800MHz band for the use of 3G data. The move was designed to provide operators with the most cost eff ective means possible of extending mobile broadband reach to rural areas, but Everything Everywhere feared the legislation would have the effect of favouring competitors Vodafone and O2 with greater access to lower frequency airwaves.

The company, a joint venture between Orange and T-Mobile which began operations earlier this year, at present uses a spectrum of 1800MHz, while both Vodafone and O2 operate at 900MHz. Everything Everywhere’s threatened legal action was over the failure of government proposals to cap the amount of low frequency spectrum that one operator can own.

In place of litigation, Everything Everywhere is now expected simply to exert further pressure on Ofcom to cap the amount of low frequency spectrum owned by one operator before the 3G airwave auction, due to take place in early 2012. The government has claimed the auction will help it hit the ambitious target of providing Europe’s fastest mobile broadband network by 2015. A budget of £850 million has been made available to finance the project.

“The design of the licence conditions for the existing spectrum meant that operators have effectively rolled out services to the same areas, and as a result certain rural areas were left with ‘not spots’,” said Matthew Howett, lead analyst at consultancy Ovum.

“Ofcom wants to stop operators neglecting these areas, but in the past there hasn’t been a cost effective spectrum available to do so. The 800MHz band allows operators to roll out networks nationwide on a cheaper basis. We should welcome this move, but the devil will be in the detail,” he added.