I have recently been contacted about the auctioning of the mobile phone spectrum.
 
In the UK, Ofcom is responsible for the health of the mobile phone market, in line with its statutory duties. These duties include the promotion of competition and efficient use of spectrum.
 
Ofcom recently launched a consultation on the upcoming spectrum auction. The auction consists of 2.3 GHz spectrum, which is already useable for better 4G services, and 3.4 GHz spectrum, which although it is unlikely to be useable for at least two to three years, could help unlock a new wave of future services such as 5G.
 
Having looked into this, Ofcom agrees that there is a competition concern around the 2.3 GHz spectrum available and it has therefore imposed a cap on bidding. The cap prevents any one company holding more than 45 per cent of spectrum that can be used immediately after the auction. I am told that it also argues that by the time 3.4 GHz spectrum is usable, other bands will become available and there is therefore no immediate necessity for action on competition grounds in respect of this spectrum.  
 
Ofcom is clear that its intervention has been minimal as it does not want to distort the auction by giving the smaller operators a price break through the weakening of competition. Furthermore, I believe there are concerns that it would provide a perverse incentive for smaller operators to under-bid in this and future auctions, if they always expected intervention in their favour on grounds of lacking spectrum.
 
Ofcom's focus on ensuring effective competition in the mobile market - and on getting the spectrum into use as quickly as possible - is welcome, and I support this.


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