Regulator approves UK mobile spectrum trading

UK regulator Ofcom, has announced that, from June 20th, mobile operators are permitted to trade the rights to spectrum amongst themselves. The new regulation covers 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz spectrum and mean operators will be able to bid for the use of spectrum they believe the have greater need for than other operators.

“By allowing operators to trade their spectrum, Ofcom believes that there will be greater opportunity to use it more efficiently. Ultimately, it is believed that this will bring benefits to citizens and consumers in terms of improved mobile services,” the regulator said in a statement.

The UK government directed Ofcom to make the move in December 2010 in a bid to improve competition in mobile services, and Ofcom started the consultation process in February 2011.

Auctions for UK LTE spectrum derived from the sought after 800MHz digital dividend will take place in 2012, with roll-out’s expected in 2013.

O2, the UK arm of Telefonica, recently objected to the plans, complaining the requirement for caps on potential spectrum band acquisitions was illegal under European law. The operator was more enthusiast about today’s spectrum trading news however stating simply that, “O2 welcomes the announcement made today by Ofcom that it has given the go-ahead for mobile phone operators to trade the rights to the radio spectrum they hold.”

Fifth-placed 3, part of the Hutchinson Whampoa group, was less enthusiastic however, stating:”Spectrum is the lifeblood of smartphones and the mobile internet and for those with surplus holdings it is also a strategic asset, so voluntary trading is the exception. This move simply allows those who have been gifted access to public spectrum to profit from it, with no benefit for UK taxpayers. Ofcom’s ambition to deliver faster and more capable services to consumers is best served by a truly competitive allocation of this public asset.”

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