Three mobile laments poor UK sector and mulls court battle with regulator Ofcom

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Three mobile had hoped regulators would restrict its rivals from bidding at the next spectrum auction

Britain’s mobile phone sector has been blasted as “mediocre at best” by the boss of Three mobile.

The comments came as Three said is mulling a judicial review over the way regulator Ofcom plans to auction new capacity to the UK’s mobile operators.

And chief executive Dave Dyson believes a challenge through the courts would not delay the roll-out of 5G.

Three, owned by Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, posted a 10 per cent growth in first-half revenues this morning. But earnings fell by two per cent to £341m.

Dyson said “an essential part” of the firm’s growth plans is “to challenge the industry on behalf of consumers by fixing issues that frustrate them”.

He added:

Most people I speak to agree with my view that the mobile industry in the UK is mediocre at best.

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Judicial review

Last month Ofcom released the rules of engagement for the auction of additional spectrum later this year. Three had hoped the likes of EE and Vodafone, which currently hold the most spectrum, would have their bidding capabilities capped. While restrictions were put in place, Three said they did not go far enough.

Dyson said it was considering challenging the Ofcom decision by launching a judicial review but was yet to make a final decision.

He said:

It’s a very safe bet that even with a delay of a few months, the spectrum auction would still have taken place in good time and there would be no negative long-term impact on the roll-out of 5G in the UK.

Dyson added: “As we prepare to distance ourselves from the EU it is fundamental to the UK’s future and economic success that we have a world class telecommunications infrastructure.

“My view is that this is best delivered through effective competition and Ofcom’s view is that effective competition can only be delivered through having four competitive mobile operators

“I am disappointed by Ofcom’s latest proposal because I think it unduly puts at risk Ofcom’s stated objective of a competitive four-player market.”

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Our spectrum auction will help support the UK’s four-player market, which has provided innovation and good value to mobile users for many years.

“We want to see the new spectrum in use as soon as possible, so operators can build for the future and the UK can start benefitting from 5G mobile by 2020.”

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