Three leads new campaign to curb BT’s mobile network dominance

 
Billy Bambrough
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The group projected an image of Ofcom boss Sharon White on to BT’s London HQ
The group projected an image of Ofcom boss Sharon White on to BT’s London HQ (Source: Make The Air Fair)

​Some of the UK’s telecom challenger brands are teaming up to lobby the communications watchdog over BT’s dominance over the airwaves.

Three UK is leading a group – that includes TalkTalk, CityFibre, and Relish – which is calling on Ofcom to prevent one mobile network owning more than 30 per cent of the UK’s mobile spectrum.

BT – which recently acquired mobile network EE – has the largest proportion of all available mobile spectrum with 42 per cent. Vodafone controls 29 per cent, while Three and O2 have around 15 per cent each.

Read more: BT investor calls for talks over Openreach arm

The group, under the name Make The Air Fair, argues a 30 per cent cap will mean a better service for customers. Ofcom’s next auction of new mobile spectrum is due to take place next year and chief executive Sharon White has recently asked for views on how the next batch of mobile airwaves should be sold off.

Communications watchdog Ofcom has already ruled that BT EE will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming auction.

The regulator set out its rules for next year's auction of 190 MHz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands - representing more than three-quarters of the 4G airwaves that were released in 2013. The auction was supposed to kick off last year, but was delayed by the proposed merger of O2 and Three, which was eventually blocked by the European Commission.

The campaign group wants Ofcom to go further however and it's not the only BT issue the watchdog is wrestling with right now.

Read more: Economic think tank calls for Openreach to be carved out from BT

“The UK mobile market is broken at a critical time when it should be leading and not lagging almost all other developed countries. Ofcom must prove it is on the side of consumers and apply a 30 per cent cap on total spectrum ownership following next year’s auction,” said Three chief executive Dave Dyson.

A recent survey funded by Three found that 65 per cent of UK consumers want a cap on how much one company can own of a resource used for a public service.

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