Telefonica subsidiary O2 UK reportedly plans to challenge terms of a sale of 5G frequencies in the 700MHz and 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz bands, a move Financial Times (FT) stated could delay the process by up to a year-and-a-half.
The newspaper reported O2 harboured concerns over the way the spectrum will be sold, demanding regulator Ofcom sell contiguous blocks rather than fragments and preparing a legal challenge to the process.
O2 told Mobile World Live (MWL) only that it had written to the regulator to raise concerns about the sale, with FT noting this was part of a procedure enabling operators to flag concerns they felt had not been “resolved during previous consultations”.
An Ofcom representative told MWL it was disappointed “one operator has threatened to launch a legal dispute”. While the regulator didn’t name O2, it warned any legal challenge “could slow things down for mobile users and the economy”.
FT explained the auction was scheduled to take place during the second half of the year, but had been put on ice due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Sources told the newspaper any legal challenge could cause an 18-month delay to proceedings.
Kester Mann, director, consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight, told MWL any delay “threatens the UK’s strong start in 5G” but conceded a legal challenge would be “understandable”.
“Owning contiguous blocks of spectrum is crucial to achieving many of the much-touted benefits of 5G, such as superfast speeds and high throughput. O2 has also been less motivated than rivals EE and Vodafone to quickly rollout its 5G network, so in this sense any delay may have more of an impact on its rivals”.
Rival 3 UK holds 100MHz of contiguous spectrum from prior acquisitions, which O2, EE and Vodafone UK had expressed competitive concerns about.