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Vodafone UK Beat EE to Have the Most Valuable 3G and 4G Spectrum

Monday, March 11th, 2013 (1:06 am) - Score 3,081

The latest post-4G auction study from Analysys Mason estimates that Vodafone, not EE, now has the most valuable mobile spectrum portfolio in the United Kingdom (worth over £2bn). The operator also spent £802m to secure several slices of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz band (here) in order to roll-out superfast Mobile Broadband services.

Officially EE (T-Mobile, Orange UK), as a result of Ofcom’s recent auction, now holds the most UK mobile spectrum in terms of raw MHz and the other operators sit someway behind; a very simplistic illustration shows who owns what below.

mobile_operator_spectrum_holidings_uk_2013

Analysys Mason’s study indicates that the picture becomes very different when value is considered. In particular O2 and Vodafone both appear to “possess more valuable portfolios than a simple analysis of the total bandwidth would suggest“, while conversely BT and UK Broadband’s (PCCW) portfolios may have a lower value relative to those of the four main Mobile Network Operators (MNO).

mobile operator spectrum value uk 2013

The study assumes that the new 800MHz band should be the most valuable (i.e. it costs less to cover more people), while the similar 900MHz spectrum would follow close behind. But the raw value of such spectrum can be very difficult to get right.

Crucially the analyst admits that its approach is “unlikely to accurately reflect the true value” of each of the other spectrum bands to UK operators. For example, the 900MHz band may be more valuable than the 800MHz band given the “wider availability and penetration” of current generation 3G / HSPA+ compatible devices in this band (i.e. in the short to medium term until 800MHz matures).

Analysys Mason Statement

Applying these results to the data in Figure 1 gives an indicative current value of around GBP6.9 billion (EUR8.0 billion) for all UK mobile spectrum in the above bands. This is much less than the GBP22.5 billion (EUR16.1 billion) originally paid for the 2100MHz and 1900MHz spectrum in 2000, but it is also worth noting that it is less than 25% of the economic welfare benefit derived from the use of mobile spectrum, as estimated in Analysys Mason’s recent report for the UK government.

It should be said that such analysis, while interesting, is still highly subjective as the ultimate test of value is still dependent upon management of the related business model and how consumers respond. In other words the 800MHz band wouldn’t be very valuable if people didn’t use it, although of course that won’t happen.

Mobile operators hope to begin the commercial launch of their related 800MHz and 2.6GHz based 4G (LTE) services this spring, which will also be used to help expand the coverage of 3G and 4G mobile services to reach 98% of the UK population (99% when outdoors) by the end of 2017 at the latest.

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