The battle for dominance in 5G is heating up, with O2 complaining to the regulator for changes to its auction procedure. What will happen next?
The dispute between rival mobile networks has been brewing ever since Three secured a contiguous block of the 5G spectrum at the 3.6GHz band, which allows higher peak speeds and potentially better coverage. At the time Ofcom justified approving this deal by saying that it was not significant enough to give Three “an unmatchable competitive advantage”.
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Three certainly seems to be aware of having some advantage over other networks, with a spokesperson saying at a media event in July that: “Only Three has enough spectrum to deploy 5G effectively… we are in an incredible position to lead 5G going forward”. However, the network is expected to vigorously defend its bought-and-paid-for frequencies in any dispute.
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There’s another auction for bandwidth coming up soon, which could give O2 an opportunity to buy rights to a contiguous block of the spectrum for itself. But that may come as slim comfort for the network, which is specifically concerned about a particular segment of it: the 3.4-3.8GHz spectrum, which it claims “is currently the most important range of frequencies for the launch and development of 5G mobile services.” O2 argues that all UK networks should be able to have access to contiguous blocks in this part of the spectrum.
Ofcom said in a statement on the matter:
We’re releasing more airwaves to support the roll-out of 5G. We’ve also proposed new measures to make it easier for mobile companies to bring together their different blocks of spectrum, to help provide a better 5G service for customers. We are considering all responses to our consultation before making our final decisions later this year.
We’ll keep you posted as to the decision reached by the regulator, as it will have important consequences for all consumers looking to upgrade to a super-speedy 5G connection.