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Ofcom spectrum cap rules out BT/EE bids

Communications regulator Ofcom has announced that BT/EE will not be able to bid in the 2.3 GHz band in its auction of 190 MHz of 4G mobile spectrum, taking place next year.

This is due the organisation’s imposition of a cap of 255 MHz on ‘immediately useable’ spectrum that can be bought by any one operator. According to Ofcom, BT/EE currently holds 45 per cent of such spectrum, with Vodafone holding 28 per cent, and O2 and Three holding 15 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We’re concerned that, if these immediately usable holdings were to become more unbalanced, this could harm competition in the next few years.

“As a result of the new spectrum in the market after the award, BT/EE’s overall share of immediately-useable spectrum will fall to 42%. If BT/EE were to acquire all the 2.3 GHz being awarded, it would have almost half of the immediately usable spectrum in the market.”

“We are not proposing a cap on the amount of 3.4 GHz spectrum. This is because the band is not immediately useable, and we believe it is important that operators are given an opportunity to acquire this spectrum so they are able to consider early development of 5G services.”

Ofcom spectrum group director Philip Marnick said: “Spectrum is the essential resource that fuels the UK’s economy. This auction can help ensure that UK consumers can access the mobile data services they need, and that operators can continue to innovate and build for the future.”

The spectrum being auctioned will represent an increase of just under a third of the total mobile spectrum currently available, and more than three-quarters of the 4G airwaves released in the previous auction in 2013. As well as the 40 MHz of 2.3 GHz spectrum, Ofcom will also be auctioning 150 MHz in the 3.4 GHz band.