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Fears of 5G Auction Delay as Vodafone UK Ponders Legal Challenge

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019 (8:28 am) - Score 4,381
5g mobile signal bars uk

Mobile operator Vodafone has warned that it would consider a legal challenge against Ofcom’s forthcoming auction of the 5G friendly radio spectrum bands at 700MHz and 3.6GHz – 3.8GH, unless the regulator changes their proposed strategy of auctioning these as part of a bundled package.

Ofcom are currently preparing to award 200MHz of spectrum frequency to UK mobile network operators (i.e. 80MHz in the 700MHz band and 120MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band) and they hope to complete this by Spring 2020 (here). The purpose, they claim, for auctioning off both bands at the same time is so that the winners can “bring the spectrum into use as soon as possible.”

Sadly auctions of new mobile spectrum have become increasingly synonymous with legal challenges, which have an ugly tendency of causing significant delays to the roll-out of faster Mobile Broadband services and related coverage targets. The recent 4G/5G auction (2.3GHz and 3.4GHz) suffered various delays as operators argued over spectrum caps, while different gripes stalled the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands before that.

Unfortunately Vodafone have now signalled that they too might be prepared to hinder the latest auction. The operator is concerned that Ofcom’s decision to auction off two very different bands at the same time could inflate spectrum valuations by indirectly forcing operators to bid for licenses they do not need (i.e. it makes valuing spectrum a harder task for auction participants).

The 700MHz band travels further and so is ideal for helping to improve rural coverage via 5G (indeed it includes a coverage obligation), while the higher frequencies in the 3.6-3.8GHz band don’t travel as far but could be combined with other bands in urban areas to help deliver ultrafast multi-Gigabit fixed wireless broadband or mobile broadband speeds at low latencies.

Scott Petty, Vodafone UK’s CTO, said (Lightreading):

“Putting [these bands] together in unusual combinations creates a very difficult situation where your valuation is hard to work out and you end up buying things you don’t need because part of the bundle is something you do need. We could end up with a very fragmented spectrum situation depending on how the bundles are put together.

It would be disappointing if a falling out over the spectrum auction stalls leadership and we stop deploying for a year and lose that leadership position. … Do I want to spend money litigating? No, because it is a waste of money. If we have to, we might.”

On top of that Vodafone are worried about a so-called “two tier” outcome, where one or two operators end up dominating specific bands and others miss out. Mind you this is hardly a new scenario for mobile operators and much depends on their appetite during the bidding (nature of the auction). For example, O2 is the only operator to own a 40MHz slice of the 2.3GHz band and Three UK is the only one to currently own a huge chunk of the 3.6-3.8GHz band (see below).

A Spokesperson for Ofcom told ISPreview.co.uk:

“A combined auction could allow winning bidders to bring these airwaves into use as soon as possible, so that people and businesses can benefit quickly from better services. We’ve gathered a range of views on our plans, and we’ll set out our decisions later this year.”

Previous legal challenges have already caused the Government to toughed up Ofcom’s ability to fight them off (i.e. requiring operators to prove they’re challenging the substance of the regulator’s decision instead of its technicalities) and to introduce an updated appeals system. The changes have made it possible to resolve such situations in a shorter space of time, although they do not completely remove the possibility of significant delays.

Meanwhile other mobile operators, such as Three UK, are known to have concerns about the currently proposed coverage obligations on the 700MHz band and the possibility of future obligations for other bands. However any operator choosing to rail against the new obligation risks looking like a pariah to consumers, many of which have grown tired of the UK’s flaky mobile connectivity outside of busy towns and cities.

All of this puts Ofcom in a difficult position. If the regulator continues on its course then Vodafone may challenge and cause delays, but if they make any a big change(s) then that could require another consultation and this in turn might create its own delays.

The current distribution of mobile spectrum between UK operators can be seen below (correct as of December 2018).

mobile spectrum holdings uk dec 2018

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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16 Responses
  1. Avatar Craig

    What does this mean to me as a Vodafone customer, will I be getting a decent signal when compared to other networks?

    • At present it doesn’t mean anything because it’s all just talk, but if it delays the 5G auction then that means you won’t be able to benefit from those faster services until a lot later than planned. The coverage improvements would also take longer to deliver.

      However initially this may irrelevant to you anyway unless you buy a 5G phone or router. Ultimately we’ll have to wait and see what Vodafone actually does, if anything, before being able to assess the impact.

    • Avatar Blueacid

      ‘Decent’ is tricky. Buying spectrum is just one part of the puzzle.

      If, say, Vodafone get some 700Mhz spectrum and deploy it, then yes, they will find it easier to get in-building coverage or to cover larger areas of the country from a given mast.
      But of course, if you’ve got one mast covering a far greater footprint, the amount of capacity shared between each user is going to be less; you might find that you have a strong signal which is perhaps slow, if the network is a bit lazy.

      Of course, if they spend the money to install and maintain more masts then you’ll get not only a strong signal but also you’ll stand the chance of greater speeds.

      This is grossly oversimplifying it, but that’s roughly where we’re at..!

    • Avatar Mike

      Maybe Vodafone isn’t ready for 5G and wants to kick the can.

  2. Avatar Julie pashley

    What about the obvious dangers of 5g. Cancer for breakfast anyone? It appears the lunatics are running the asylum!

    • Avatar Mike

      5G only causes cancer in the comment section by the likes of the anti-5G nutjobs.

    • As I’ve said before. At present there are no justified concerns related to 5G specifically, although that’s not to say that there isn’t always room to conduct further research (as is the case in any field of study), but this must be done in a way that reflects real-world human use of mobile and WiFi services (i.e. normal power levels, exposure times, antenna design etc.).

      Too many questionable studies have looked at extreme power levels or implementations that don’t even remotely reflect the real-world or human interaction with extremely low power non-ionising wireless communication systems. This is true for wireless technology in general and is not merely 5G centric. Many others also make thin correlations, which people read while forgetting that old scientific rule – correlation does not imply causation.

      Right now most of the work that does exist is of only limited use or vague relevance to the perceived impact upon humans. A lot of the scaremongering comes from quacks who have misread what the existing research actually says or downloaded dubious studies of questionable origin, rather than hard empirical evidence. It’s wise to get such papers from proper scientific journals, not random message boards.

      The result is people confusing high energy Microwave oven style scenarios / test setups with low power non-ionising wireless communications, which is a bit like equating petrol to water because both are clear liquids and share some properties (of course they’re both radically different in their use, impact upon humans and the environment). Anybody worried about 5G “radiation” should probably be much more concerned about natural radiation, such as high energy particles (cosmic rays) that can sometimes breach Earth’s magnetic field and damage your DNA.

      Obviously if you were to walk around with a mobile phone physically strapped hard to your head 24/7 for several years then that probably would have some health impacts, albeit stemming first from the physical pressure against your temple rather than radiation. But just like riding a bike or mowing the lawn, if you use these things sensibly then there’s no reason to worry in the first place. Heck even drinking too much water can harm you.

    • Avatar Blueacid

      Obvious risks? Nah, there aren’t any.
      Cancer for breakfast? Not from 5g.

      Stop trolling.

    • Avatar Adam

      “trolling” Hit the nail on the head! The more people that respond to these people the more it feeds them. Ignore them. They’ll soon get the message and move on.

    • Avatar Ej Sos

      Yes you nailed it.
      Even we the 4 G they tested on a thick ceramics head, which didn’t exploded total just damaged So they suggested is safe. They know the risk, and time to declare the war against humanity. As they trying to do sneaky, and they lobying by ofcom.
      Cell towers radiates and signals going 25 miles, so why then in town cell towers set up almost every 50 yards. Make sense, obviously is a weapon system, and pray not enough to help to save humanity and the animal kingdom, and every life form on our human /not reptilian/ planet.

  3. Avatar Andrew Perry

    Mike and all the people like you are collaborating with the people running the game. If you don’t know “the game” then you are still part of it.

    • Avatar Mike

      Yes, “if we don’t agree with you, you are all evil”, that sort of rhetoric is usually circulated by cults.

  4. Avatar 5G

    4G and 5G are bad for cancer risk anyway. Same as mobile phones.

    • Avatar Marie chasmore

      Thats what they want, they want to make you sick, like this level dickhead mike doing.
      All part of them Satanist mascaraed game, those cannibals example the queen of disaster the head of the war designer illegal criminal organisation.
      All that her made country Belgium terrorising and robed Europe all over the secturies. They not happy till you alive, till you don’t get cancer or dementia, till they can take your child to serv them for diner.
      5G is a supper weapon what Hitler member of the Rothilds family, best friend of the so called royals, dreamed off along with Edward the 8.
      Royals are the Dracula’s the Nazis and Isis them creation trough CIA and mI 6.
      They need bloodshed other wise they can’t get energies and they would pass out.
      Genosites is them favourite games, and deads are on them menu, they calling this medical cannibalism.

  5. Avatar Stephen Wakeman

    It’s a special kind of sad person who comes to a comma website and feels the need to spout tripe and unproven falsehoods about the dangers of mobile phones and radio frequencies causing cancer. Who do they think they’re kidding?

    Bring us PROOF. And then, even if you do, is it going to stop people from using mobiles, or WiFi or Bluetooth? Probably not. Why? Because we know smoking causes cancer, sun exposure causes it, eating meat causes it, living in a city causes it and so on and so forth. These things are proven, unlike your bumpf about mobile phones and people still do all these things knowing the risks.

    With mobile phones there are no proven risks. You are baselessly citing misinformation. Your time would be better spend designing a contemporary tin foil hat. One that stops your thoughts from escaping the confines of your skull and finding their way into comment sections, for instance.

    • Avatar F off

      You tube is full with engagers and military Wiesel blowers telling the through about.
      I wish to test this in your head you twat. Your head will explode,so we can film this and show how dangers is.
      Thank you to offer to be a guinepig
      After your head explore, you can go of the Teflon queen menus!!
      Ha ha ha, loser!!!!

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