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Ofcom defeats legal challenge from mobile network operators over 5G spectrum

Ofcom has seen off a legal challenge from mobile suppliers that oppose its latest spectrum auction

UK communications regulator Ofcom will press ahead with its planned 4G and 5G spectrum auction after the High Court ruled in its favour in a legal dispute with two suppliers.

The auction of the mobile spectrum, which will improve 4G and enable the future roll-out of 5G services, was challenged by mobile network operators (MNOs) Three and BT’s EE division. Both had been unhappy with Ofcom’s proposed limits on the 4G and 5G mobile spectrum that individual suppliers are allowed to have.

BT EE opposed restrictions on the spectrum that could be held by a single supplier and Three wanted the 37% permitted to be reduced to 30%. Three’s position was that because it currently controls far less spectrum than BT-EE and Vodafone, it wanted Ofcom to impose a cap on the amount of spectrum any single MNO could hold after the auction.

In ruling in Ofcom’s favour, Justice Green said: “In the light of my review of the evidence, I am clear that the approach taken by Ofcom was comprehensive, coherent and logical.”

Ofcom can now press ahead with a sale of airwaves early in the new year.

Ofcom CEO Sharon White previously criticised the two suppliers for holding up the auction, which is vital to the planning of 5G.

Read more about the dispute

After the court ruling, she said: “We welcome the High Court’s judgment. Our priority has always been to release these airwaves as soon as possible so customers can get more reliable mobile phone reception. We will now proceed with the auction as quickly as possible.”

According to reports, Three might appeal against the decision, but BT EE will not. .................................................................................. ...................................................................

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