Oct 19, 2017

BT adds further legal hurdle to UK spectrum auction

The UK's wireless spectrum auction and the building of 5G networks could be further delayed because of BT extending its legal challenge to Ofcom's plan to open bidding for the airwaves. If Ofcom succeeds in seeing off those challenges, the main thrust of the debate around the auction, a long-awaited sale of spectrum needed to beef up 4G services and launch 5G networks as soon as 2020, can go ahead as soon as March. BT has added a separate element to its challenge related to Three's acquisition of a smaller company UK Broadband, which already owns spectrum in the 3.4Ghz range that is suitable for 5G services and is being sold as part of the impending auction. BT has, according to three people briefed on the matter, argued that Ofcom has not confirmed that the UK Broadband block will be included in what is called the 'allocation phase', meaning that any spectrum acquired in the auction may have to be split to fit around this block - a move that carriers would see as undesirable, as mobile services work most efficiently when spectrum is not split up. One person briefed on the situation said the complaint is "Extremely technical" and the situation can be resolved after an auction, particularly as spectrum is tradeable.

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