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Everything Everywhere Drop Legal Challenge to UK Mobile Broadband Spectrum Plan

Posted: 03rd Nov, 2010 By: MarkJ
800MHz uk mobile broadbandThe joint organisation behind mobile operators Orange and T-Mobile UK - Everything Everywhere - has dropped plans for a legal challenge to the governments forthcoming Statutory Instrument on Spectrum Holdings, which could have impacted the 2011/12 auction of low frequency 800MHz radio spectrum (currently used for old analogue TV services). Its envisaged that the band will instead be used by a new generation of Mobile Broadband services.

However the annoyingly named Everything Everywhere originally warned that such an auction could have allowed rival operators, especially O2 and Vodafone UK, to grab an unfair slice of the airwaves. Instead Orange is believed to favour a spectrum cap on the amount that any one operator could own.

It's understood that Everything Everywhere's CEO, Tom Alexander, has since held intensive talks with the government and apparently managed to reach some kind of agreement. As a result the group no longer plans to oppose the governments plan but it will still urge the regulator to consider other measures, such as a cap.

Everything Everywhere statement to the FT:

"We have decided to withdraw our threatened legal action and are content to take our chances when it comes to influencing the rules for future spectrum auctions."

The governments Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, appeared to be delighted at today's news and thanked Mr Alexander for being able to see the bigger picture; "we are now in a very good place to move forward," said Vaizey.

Interestingly the FT claims that last month's Spending Review outlined how £830m will be taken from the BBC TV Licence fee over the next 7 years to help finance the rollout of "super-fast" broadband networks around the UK.

Funny because the Spending Review (here) actually touted a figure of £530m, albeit over the next four years. This appears to confirm that the government will continue to take BBC TV Licence fee cash until at least 2017, which was admittedly part of its original pre-election plan.

Last week Ofcom also told the UK government that it should make 2G (mobile voice - 900MHz and 1800MHz) spectrum available for use by 3G (UMTS) / Mobile Broadband services ASAP (here). The regulator felt that liberalising the bands under their existing owners ( O2 and Vodafone ) would not affect competition, which was due in no small part to T-Mobile and Orange UK's recent merger.

UPDATE 5h November 2010

We now have a full statement from Everything Everywhere to add.

Statement:

Everything Everywhere wrote in early August to the Government regarding the possibility of launching a judicial review of the decision to make the latest Statutory Instrument (SI) on spectrum liberalisation. Following subsequent discussions with both BIS and the Minister, we have now decided against pursuing this line of action.

This is due to the recognition by the Minister that having no sub-1Ghz spectrum is a significant issue, and secondly, that the advice given by Ofcom in relation to spectrum liberalisation was not to be taken as a precedent by Ofcom when undertaking the competitive assessment for the upcoming auction rules. That advice was not the subject of consultation and EE does not agree with several significant components of it . To reinforce this point, the Minister has stated publicly that the Ofcom advice and the terms of the SI should not prejudice the outcome of the review that will be held when setting the auction rules for forthcoming spectrum auctions.

Everything Everywhere is confident that Ofcom will properly consider all aspects of the current spectrum holding disparity and, when setting the rules for the auction, act in the interests of consumers to ensure equitable distribution of spectrum.
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