Vodafone fears 4G auction delay after Three buys spectrum from EE

By Sooraj Shah
22 Aug 2012 View Comments
Vodafone store

Mobile operator Vodafone has said it fears that Ofcom's decision to allow Everything Everywhere (EE) to repurpose its 1800MHz spectrum could lead to the 4G auction, which is set to begin at the end of the year, being delayed.

The mobile operator had earlier issued a statement accusing Ofcom of showing "a careless disregard" for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy by permitting Everything Everywhere to use its existing 2G spectrum to rollout 4G services before its competitors.

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Since then Three, which had also attacked Ofcom's decision, has purchased 2x15MHz of Everything Everywhere's 1800MHz spectrum, which should allow it to join Everything Everywhere in rolling out 4G services before their competitors.

A Vodafone spokesman told Computing that this would now mean that its rivals could delay the 4G auction.

"The worry is that both Everything Everywhere and more importantly Three now have an incentive to litigate and delay the 4G auction – Everything Everywhere because it will extend the length of its competitive advantage and Three because with 1800 MHz ‘in the bank' it can try again to get reserved 800MHz spectrum by litigating to change the auction rules," he claimed.

"All Ofcom needed to do to avoid this problem was to say that Everything Everywhere could not launch 4G services until the auction was at least under way. EE would still have had an advantage as the spectrum being sold is not cleared of TV signals until the late summer but the auction would have been secure and all operators would have had a clear path to 4G," he said.

Everything Everywhere was required to divest 2x15MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum after the European Commission had approved the merger of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK in March 2010.

Ofcom and the European Commission are to review the divestment and Everything Everywhere said it awaits a response within the next three months.

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