Three feels the heat as regulators, rivals and experts gang up over planned 5G High Court appeal

Oliver Gill
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Three and EE had challenged Ofcom's on a spectrum auction for differing reasons (Source: Getty)

Regulators, rivals and experts have rounded on mobile firm Three, saying a High Court appeal will scupper plans for Britain to lead the roll-out of 5G technology.

Three and EE today failed in a legal bid to force Britain's telecoms regulator Ofcom to change limits placed on larger players on the amount of spectrum they can own.

Spectrum is auctioned off at regular intervals to providers, allowing firms to deliver progressively higher technology such as superfast 5G services.

Three said the caps did not go far enough whereas EE believed they went too far.

While EE does not plan to contest the verdict, Three responded to the ruling by stating it will seek permission to appeal.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Three’s actions may further delay the auction, which is not in the interests of the UK.”

Meanwhile, O2 blasted Three’s approach, saying the firm “had their day in the High Court and lost”. A spokesperson added:

We are frustrated by reports that they may seek to appeal the judgement... Further delays are not in the interests of consumers, businesses and UK plc.

Read more: BT's EE makes waves in battle with Three over mobile spectrum auction

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Aaron White, a telecoms lawyer from Herbert Smith Freehills said: “The decision is also important if the government is to realise its goal for the UK to be an early adopter of 5G and a global leader in connectivity... If granted it would delay the auction further."

Three, however, insisted that because Ofcom is not expecting to roll out 5G in the UK until 2019, there will be “no impact on the delivery of this new technology”.

Such a sentiment was backed up by Matthew Howett from the consultancy Assembly Research.

"5G as a standard hasn't even been defined yet. Yes, there's a lot of hype, but it's primarily from the handset-makers rather than the operator community,” he told the BBC. "I don't think that [an appeal] will delay 5G services for consumers.”

Read more: Ofcom rules BT/EE out of mobile broadband airwaves auction

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