3 UK CEO Dave Dyson (pictured) said the company would have no option but to launch a legal challenge to block the UK’s 5G auction if the country’s regulator failed to build in safeguards to ensure allocations for smaller operators.

In remarks made to The Financial Times, Dyson repeated calls for a change in the spread of spectrum allocation in the UK, and said while a delay in the auction would be “painful”, it was more important to get the structure right.

The comments follow recent campaigns from CK Hutchison-owned 3 UK to even out spectrum allocation in the UK. In September, following the company’s failed merger with O2 UK, Dyson called on Ofcom to limit each operator to 30 per cent of the country’s available spectrum to aid competition.

It is also heavily involved in UK pressure group Make the Air Fair which seeks to limit BT’s dominance of the mobile industry.

During November, Ofcom confirmed it planned to restrict BT’s participation in a forthcoming auction for 40MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band, but said the operator would be free to bid for frequencies it is also auctioning in the 3.4GHz band.

In addition to seeking to limit the spectrum available to larger rivals, 3 UK sought to beef up its own holding with the proposed purchase of operator UK Broadband earlier this year. Should the acquisition be cleared, which expected to happen in mid-2017, 3 UK will gain a range of spectrum assets suitable for LTE and 5G use.

Preparing for 5G
Ofcom is currently working to a timeline of enabling the development of pre-commercial 5G networks by 2018 ahead of full launch in 2020.

Later this year, the regulator plans to auction spectrum in the 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz range, with an auction for 700MHz spectrum slated for 2018/19 after broadcasters have finished moving their services out of the frequency.