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Mobile Operator 3 UK Fears Wireless Spectrum Capacity Crunch in 2012

Posted: 27th Sep, 2011 By: MarkJ
uk lte 3g 4g ofcom mobile broadbandthree 3 mobile broadband UKMobile operator Three (3) has, fresh from expanding the availability of its "all-you-can-eat" unlimited Mobile Broadband data plan this morning (here), warned that its 3G network could begin running out of capacity in urban areas by the end of 2012 unless Ofcom moves forward with its auction of the new superfast 4G radio spectrum (800MHz and 2.6GHz) bands.

Ofcom's aim is for the first next generation LTE (4G) based Mobile Broadband services, which would make use of the new spectrum bands, to surface between late 2013 and early 2014. But O2 has threatened to delay the process through legal action (here), which Three (3) believes is unfair because O2 are allegedly "incentivised differently to defer [the auction] for as long as possible".

Three (3)'s CEO, David Dyson, added ( BBC ):

"I believe the auction will go ahead next year and therefore congestion will not happen. We have been assured by the government and Ofcom that distortions will be rebalanced when the auction happens."

The UK government's Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, recently lent some support to Three (3) by warning mobile operators not to delay the process and to "put aside competitive differences and work together in their common – and our national - interest" (here). O2 now faces a difficult quandary of whether or not to oppose the government, which could in theory lead to stricter regulation further down the line.

Ofcom has also sweetened the deal for Three (3) by added a spectrum cap into its draft auction regulations, which is designed to prevent any one operator from holding more than its fair share; this is of course viewed by O2 as being exactly the opposite of fair. As a result of all this the publication of those same regulations now appears to have been delayed by a few additional months to the end of this year.
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