Saturday, 30 May 2020

O2 to battle Ofcom over 5G auction rules

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 04 May 20

The legal challenge could delay the UK’s second 5G spectrum by up to 18 months

Back in March, Ofcom announced its proposed rules for the country’s next 5G spectrum auction, which was initially scheduled for the second half of this year.   As part of this announcement, Ofcom rejected calls from the UK’s major telcos, including O2, to oversee the defragmentation the spectrum…

Back in March, Ofcom announced its proposed rules for the country’s next 5G spectrum auction, which was initially scheduled for the second half of this year.
 
As part of this announcement, Ofcom rejected calls from the UK’s major telcos, including O2, to oversee the defragmentation the spectrum, saying it was not in their remit to do so.
 
Currently, nearly all of the operators have fragmented frequency slices, which makes the operation of their networks more difficult and less efficient. Consolidating these slices into functionally contiguous blocks would require the operators to trade spectrum with one another, but O2 has said it will be leaving these trades to the operators themselves and will not mandate spectrum deals.
 
Three was the only notable operator not to call for defragmentation, since their spectrum holdings are already the largest contiguous block in the UK.
 
Now, O2 says that it will bring legal action against Ofcom’s proposed rules, trying to force the regulator to deal with the issue of fragmented spectrum.
 
Such a legal challenge could reportedly take up to 18 months to resolve, greatly hindering the UK operators’ access to the additional spectrum.
 
“People and businesses need fast, reliable mobile services more than ever, so we want to auction these airwaves as soon as possible,” said an Ofcom spokesperson. “We’re really disappointed that one operator has threatened to launch a legal dispute that could slow things down for mobile users and the economy.”
 
This is not the first time O2 has seen off challenges to its spectrum auction rules, having won a legal challenge brought by Three and BT in 2017.
 
In its most recent announcement, Ofcom has said that the coronavirus pandemic has forced them to postpone the 5G spectrum auction for the time being, with no new timeline immediately available. Hopefully this additional time will give Ofcom and O2 time to work out their dispute without the process spilling into 2021.
 
 
How would this spectrum auction delay affect the UK’s mobile connectivity? Learn the latest from industry-leading speakers at this year’s Connected Britain 
 
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