Feeds

Three joins pack baying for Ofcom blood

Operators square up to regulator ahead of 4G auction

High performance access to file storage

Three is the latest operator to accuse Ofcom of illegal favouritism: claiming the regulator's decision to allow spectrum refarming shouldn't have been allowed, and that a balance must be restored.

The comments come in Three's response to Ofcom's consultation on next year's mega auction. The proposals within that consultation have already been criticised as potentially illegal by both BT and O2, but Three goes one better by describing the regulator's decision to refarm the 900MHz band back in January as "potentially unlawful". The UK's smallest operator is calling for the terms of the 4G auction to restore the karmic balance with annual license fees which reflect the unfairness of it all.

Vodafone and O2 were both given radio spectrum at 900MHz to launch their 2G services, while Everything Everywhere owns a serious chunk of spectrum at 1.8GHz which it bought at auction for the provision of 2G services. But in January Ofcom changed the rules, permitting 3G services to be deployed in those frequencies, and it's that decision which caused Three to cry foul.

Three's argument, which is well-trodden, is that it bid (and paid) for 3G spectrum at 2.1GHz on the basis that 3G services would only be permitted at that frequency. Permitting 3G across the dial devalues Three's investment and hands an unfair (and perhaps illegal) advantage to the competition. Everyone else's investment in 2.1GHz was also devalued, but all the other operators have bands which increased in value too.

Everything Everywhere at least paid market rates for its 2G spectrum*, and 3G at 1.8GHz is still pretty theoretical, but 3G at 900MHz is already supported by the latest handsets and O2 has wasted no time at all in rolling out 3G connections in its 900MHz spectrum (in London at least). Given that the 900MHz spectrum never went up for auction Three is, perhaps justifiably, miffed.

Three argued against refarming, or at least asked for financial restitution before it be allowed to go ahead, but lost that argument back in January. Now the operator is asking that the 4G auction process be used to re balance the competitive marketplace - to wit: all four operators to end up with at least 20MHz of sub-1GHz spectrum, lower caps on overall spectrum ownership and, critically, Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone to pay a "revised annual licence fee" calculated to make up for their chronological advantage.

It's hard to imagine the regulator agreeing to such a thing, but with Three's position so diametrically opposed to that put forward by O2 it's hard to see how Ofcom is going to appease all the stakeholders. Most of the responses to the consultation are in now: we're still waiting to see the redacted versions of what Everything Everywhere and Vodafone have to say for themselves but it's unlikely to be anything conciliatory.

Ofcom can't win this one: the operators have every interest in delaying the auction process as long as they can (so no-one has to spend money on spectrum or infrastructure), and if they can blame the regulator for being intransigent then all the better. Ofcom is under enormous political pressure to get the 4G auction under way as the UK slips behind the rest of the world in telecommunications deployments, but with incumbent operators clearly ready to resort to the courts to argue their point of view it's going to be a hard battle to fight. ®

* We've been reminded that the 1800MHz spectrum was awarded, not auctioned, so Everything Everywhere did not pay anything to get the spectrum.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Sorry London, Europe's top tech city is Munich
New 'Atlas of ICT Activity' finds innovation isn't happening at Silicon Roundabout
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.