The plea by the UK’s smallest mobile phone network operator for its bigger rivals to be restricted to no more than 30 per cent of relevant spectrum each seems likely to fall on deaf ears.
3UK chief executive Dave Dyson is continuing to press Ofcom for such a restriction; the regulator plans to auction 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band and 150 MHz in the 3.4 GHz band later this year. Ofcom has set a reserve price of £70 million for the frequencies.
“Considering the many millions spent on liberating some of the MOD spectrum,” says ATDI technical director Nick Kirkman, “it’s likely Ofcom will want to maximise the revenues from it. Putting a restriction on how much spectrum any operator can hold skews the free market and reduces the value of the frequencies. I cannot see Ofcom welcoming that.”
ATDI has worked extensively with Ofcom and the Ministry of Defence – the UK’s biggest spectrum holder – to identify which frequencies can be released from the MoD’s holdings in the wake of the Cave Report.
3UK, with around 9 million customers, is the smallest of the country’s four major operators. Its attempt to scale up – both in terms of customers and spectrum – by merging with O2 was blocked by the European Commission on grounds that it would harm competition.
Nick notes that, no matter how much spectrum a company holds, it is incumbent upon it to make the best use of its resources, both in terms of operational efficiency and adding value for shareholders. “It Is a core area of ATDI’s expertise to achieve this for customers,” he says, “and mobile phone companies understand that notion very clearly as they are under constant pressure to provide more services for their customers.”