O2 set to scupper next UK 5G auction

UK operator O2 is apparently unhappy with the way Ofcom plans to conduct the next 5G spectrum auction and could launch a legal challenge.

There doesn’t seem to have been any public announcement, but the FT has been chatting to shadowy figures who reckon O2 sent a letter to Ofcom during the consultation period for the auction, which recently ended. The letter effectively warns of the potential of a legal challenge, which would delay the auction for as long as it took for the courts to make a call on it.

The issue seems to be the matter of contiguous spectrum. Ofcom wants to flog lots of little bits of spectrum but O2 would rather just bid for one big bit, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that it would be a lot more useful for providing the kind of fat bandwidth 5G needs to deliver on is speedy promises.

Ofcom gave the FT a fairly passive-aggressive quote: “People and businesses need fast, reliable mobile services more than ever, so we want to auction these airwaves as soon as possible. We’re really disappointed that one operator has threatened to launch a legal dispute that could slow things down for mobile users and the economy.”

In other words O2 is selfish, bordering on treasonous for daring to raise an objection. There’s a simple solution, Ofcom: don’t chop the spectrum up. Then again one of the other operators would presumably moan if that happened, so maybe you can’t win. But it’s Ofcom’s job to sort this sort of thing out, so maybe it should adopt a more conciliatory tone and try to meet O2 in the middle.

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