Telecom giants come to blows over airwaves

Billy Bambrough
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According to Forbes, as of March 2016 CK Hutchison chairman Li Ka-shing is the second richest person in Asia, with an estimated net worth of $27.1bn (Source: Getty)

An upcoming radio spectrum auction has become the latest battle ground for the UK’s warring telcos.

Network operator Three, owned by China’s CK Hutchison, has called on the telecoms industry regulator Ofcom to limit how much of the radio spectrum its rivals can own.

Three’s chief executive Dave Dyson wants the regulator to prevent any operator coming out of the forthcoming auction with more than 30 per cent of the total mobile spectrum. Three owns around 15 per cent of the current available radio wave spectrum, while EE controls over 40 per cent and Vodafone just less than 30 per cent.

However, Three could face legal challenges from rivals Vodafone, and BT, the owner of EE, to stop Ofcom changing the rules. Both Vodafone and EE are understood to be investigating how best to block Three’s attempts.

CK Hutchison is still reeling from its failed attempt to merge Three with Telefonica’s O2 in a deal that would have been worth £10.3bn. The merger was blocked by the European competition regulator due to concerns over the impact of reducing the number of UK carriers down to three from four.

The European Commission feared the move would reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.

Meanwhile, BT is hoping that it will be able to attract more customers onto its EE platform by offering six months of free access to the BT Sport app for new and existing customers.

EE chief executive Marc Allera told City A.M. it is a symbolic move and to expect more to come in terms of tie ups between EE and BT services.

“We’ve got a few things up our sleeves. Retail stores will be a key area to bring EE and BT customers together,” said Allera.

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