(Press Association) EE and Three have lost separate High Court cases over caps on the amount of mobile spectrum any network can control, a move which opens the door for long-awaited 4G and 5G auctions.
Both companies took issue with Ofcom’s plans to cap the amount of mobile spectrum that any operator can own at 37% – a move which BT’s EE challenged for being too rigid, while Three was concerned that the allowance was too generous.
BT/EE holds 45% of all usable mobile spectrum, while Three owns around 12%.
The High Court found that Ofcom had engaged in a “detailed predictive analysis of how the market would work in the future” and consulted economic models which struck a balance between protecting consumers and competition and “setting restrictive caps which were not disproportionate to BT/EE”.
“The balance exercise was sound,” the High Court found following a three-day hearing earlier this month.
Releasing the airwaves
Ofcom welcomed the ruling, which had delayed its auction of airwaves to support the expansion of 4G and 5G in the UK.
A spokesman for Ofcom said: “We welcome the High Court’s judgment.
“Our priority has always been to release these airwaves as soon as possible so customers can get more reliable mobile phone reception.
“We’ll now proceed with the auction as quickly as possible.”
Ofcom’s cap means BT/EE will not be able to bid for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band and Vodafone can bid for a maximum 160MHz of spectrum across both the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.
But EE will not be forced to divest any part of its mobile spectrum, as the regulator expects that EE’s market share will be diluted over time as new spectrum is auctioned off in the coming years.