Vodafone UK is “shocked” at the “careless disregard” of Ofcom on 4G spectrum

The team at Vodafone UK are seriously annoyed. Enough to use some rather emotive language when describing the behaviour of the industry’s regulator, Ofcom.

What’s Ofcom done wrong this time? They’ve allowed Everything Everywhere (i.e. T-Mobile and Orange) to use their existing 1800 MHz spectrum for 4G services.

The short story being that, theoretically, Everything Everywhere can go live with their 4G services from 11th of September this year.

Meanwhile Vodafone (and everyone else) is sitting staring at the wall waiting for the promised December auction to begin before they have any hope of doing similar. At least, that’s how it looks.

Now the reality is that Everything Everywhere may not be in the position to do anything in September. Or October. Or anytime soon. However, if I was them, I’d be seriously considering the possibility of getting service live in London (or “major metropolitan areas”) and piggybacking on the new iPhone launch to try and win a ton of new customers (e.g. “the only 4G network for your new iPhone”).

Have a read of Vodafone’s statement released this morning in reaction to Ofcom’s announcement yesterday:

“We are frankly shocked that Ofcom has reached this decision. The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market.

Ofcom’s timing is particularly bizarre given the reports that Everything Everywhere is currently in discussions to sell some of its spectrum to 3, which Ofcom has previously been at such pains to protect with its over-engineering of the 4G auction. This means the balance in the auction will fundamentally change.

The regulator has spent several years refusing to carry out a fair and open auction. Now its decision today has granted the two most vociferous complainants during that entire process a massive incentive to further delay it.

We wholeheartedly support the Secretary of State’s call for the 4G auction to occur in December and look to the regulator to finally do its job and produce a competitive market for 4G services as soon as possible.

We firmly believe that a fully competitive market for 4G services is in the best interests of Britain. We have already committed ourselves to reach 98% of the UK population with indoor 4G services by 2015 – two years before Ofcom’s own target – but we need to acquire spectrum in the auction to achieve this. Ironically, all that stands in our way right now is the regulator.”

Yes, well hasn’t that always been the case?

Rarely am I impressed by the industry regulator. This move doesn’t seem very fair at all. I don’t see how it helps me as a Vodafone customer. (Although as a 3 customer, I might get a look in with this depending on their relationship).

Thoughts?

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8 Responses to Vodafone UK is “shocked” at the “careless disregard” of Ofcom on 4G spectrum

  1. Weird Hong Kong August 21, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    I sit in my front living room window here in hk and can detect no short of 5 LTE signals to choose from. I am quite stumped to understand why the UK regulators are that far behind on LTE rollout.. their 3G auction years ago was such a huge success and pricey affair. I guess the other carriers can sue? 1.8 2.1 2.3 ok freq for 4G and can use world phones.

  2. Ewan August 21, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Agreed. It’s ridiculous.

  3. james vincent August 21, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    There’s good and bad about this. Good because Britain can now get some LTE love. What we need to do is give the 4G to rural areas first, as they are in desperate need for decent speeds. The bad… well a head start.
    ofcom are wrong in how they have set up this auction. in the 800mhz sale, vodafone & O2 are safe and will get some. [‘ee’ [everything everywhere] have their 1800mhz] But ofcom have Reserved some 800mhz for a ‘new forth operator’. HELLO…. how about we look after what we’ve got? What about ‘3’? They need some lower spectrum the most as they only have 2100mhz. OK so they are in talks with ‘ee’ to buy some 1800mhz but thats besides the point. It’s like everything everywhere stated, There has been an Imbalance in the UK for over 20 years and thats set to continue. Screw virgin/BT or whoever else wants some 800mhz. lets look after the four networks we already have. Also stop giving priority to vodafone & O2 in regards to spectrum.
    Rant over…

  4. squawkBOX August 21, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    [posted elsewhere but pasted here as relevant]

    Watching the way that they bully OFCOM, HMRC and other firms, I take the comment ” careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy ” by Vodafone with a pinch of salt and TBH, made me vomit a little inside.

    Vodafone currently have a slight competitive advantage with them obtaining effectively free spectrum for 3G use at 900Mhz (along with o2). Everything Everywhere, now have been given a free pass to jump on the 4G bandwagon at 1800Mhz. This leaves poor ThreeUK as the only network that have purchased all of their spectrum holdings that are in use.

    Personally, I’d rather have Three launch LTE services as they ‘get’ the modern consumer.

    So as things stand at the moment, in the UK we are moving towards having LTE launched by EE before the rest of the networks can launch at the end of next year. In an ideal world, they’d all launch at the same time but because of the advantages that have been afforded by o2 and Vodafone at 900Mhz – I’m now in agreement with OFCOM and would like to see them launch their LTE services sooner.

    A slight spanner was thrown in the works yesterday, with rumours that ThreeUK are in discussions to purchase some of the spectrum that is EE is required to sell-off. If they do, this triggers a change in the conditions of the smallest UK player and means that they’d get less favourable concessions at the main 4G auctions.

    Tis all a little bit of a mess.

  5. OP August 21, 2012 at 11:44 am #


    The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy” says the company that doesn’t bother paying the taxes it should.

  6. Ewan August 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    It was a good rant!

  7. Mike Strefford September 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Part of the problem is that the UK mobile market is just too competitive to support an additional full operator. As a country we can just about support 3 plus 3 as a niche data network. Ofcom continues to try and get more networks in the market and the costs of actually delivering a decent service keep driving them out, into the virtual space OR further merging.
    They should be focusing on ensuring the best distribution of spectrum to deliver quality service to customers on our existing operators rather than some theoretical ‘new entrant’ approach. The risk of which is that you end up with a speculator buying the frequency and then selling it on to one of the incumbents at a profit – can anyone remember he 118xxx auction Ofcom ran!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Morgan Mullooly of Analysys Mason gives us a viewpoint on the EE/Ofcom/Vodafone spectrum debacle | Mobile Industry Review - August 21, 2012

    […] the EE/Ofcom/Vodafone spectrum debacleBy Ewan on August 21, 2012 in Operators TweetFurther to my earlier post, here’s some rather useful perspective from Analysys Mason’s spectrum specialist Morgan […]

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