August 20, 2017 / 7:54 PM / 2 years ago

EE to threaten legal action over mobile spectrum cap

Aug 20 (Reuters) - BT Group Plc’s EE is planning to threaten the telecoms regulator Ofcom with a High Court challenge on Monday, over its planned auction of mobile spectrum.

Ofcom in July capped the maximum spectrum a company could win as it set new rules for the auction of mobile spectrum to safeguard competition.

The new auction, which is expected to take place later this year, will limit the amount of spectrum companies such as BT and EE Ltd IPO-EEL.L could win to 85 MHz in the 3.4 GHz band, restricting the companies’ overall share of mobile spectrum.

However smaller rival Three, owned by Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison Holdings, says the proposals needed to go further.

“Three has already begun the legal process and our challenge doesn’t mean further delay,” EE spokesman said. “Tomorrow we will send a Letter Before Action to Ofcom, challenging their decision on the upcoming auction.”

Rival British network operator O2’s CEO Mark Evans said that legal action would inevitably delay the auction. He said all operators had accepted the rules for 2.3GHz, so Ofcom should go ahead with the auction, on a permanent or temporary basis.

“This would allow spectrum to be used whilst a potentially protracted legal process in relation to the 3.4GHz spectrum is contested,” he said.

Asked about the challenge, a spokesman for Ofcom said in an email: “Any delays in releasing new airwaves risk harming people and businesses.”

EE’s spokesman said the company was not trying to delay the auction: “We’re supportive of Ofcom’s goal to release airwaves quickly, and we don’t want to stand in the way of that.

“We pragmatically accept that we are excluded from the 2.3GHz auction for 4G, and encourage Ofcom to continue without our participation.”

Three was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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