Trade body calls on Ofcom to modernise spectrum auctions

Fixed wireless trade body WISPA (Wireless Internet Service Providers Association) has called on Ofcom to modernise spectrum auctions.

WISPA believes Ofcom needs to ‘modernise the way it allocates spectrum resources’ because the current approach is outdated and ‘no longer fit for purpose’.

Spectrum allocation has become an even more contentious issue in recent years ahead of the rollout of 5G and IoT services.

David Burns, Chairman of UKWISPA, says:

“An organisation is granted exclusive use of parts of the spectrum for the entire nation, with no obligation to actually use it.

In most cases, such as parts purchased by the big mobile operators, they only ever install transmission equipment where there are large populations – ie. less than 20% of the land mass.”

This is why that matters, according to UKWISPA:

  • National allocation means that huge parts of the UK do not get access to the services that the operator promises, as it is not cost-effective for them. Think 3G and 4G – does it work everywhere? Do we all still lose signal and drop calls as we drive or walk around?

  • If operators focus in high population areas, it follows that our suburban, semi or deep-rural homes and businesses miss out most. On TV channels, on mobile coverage, and most irritatingly of all, on fast broadband.

  • 20% efficiency on any national resource is a national disgrace. Just imagine if only 20% of roads were available because the government allocated them all to a couple of road hauliers. Or what if only 20% of NHS hospital beds could be used because they had all been purchased by private hospitals. It is unthinkable that our regulator should operate in such an arcane way.

  • 5G will present exciting new opportunities and business models which will enable lower cost services for enterprises and major hubs such as hospitals, airports, and train termini. But these won’t be accessible with legacy national approach to allocation of spectrum.

Hutchison-owned mobile network Three infamously launched the #MakeTheAirFair campaign which called on Ofcom to set a cap on the percentage of spectrum any one mobile operator could hold at 30 percent.

Three’s campaign, which featured a cartoon superhero depiction of Ofcom Head Sharon White, obtained more than 170,000 signatories but failed to achieve its desired outcome.

Instead, Ofcom decided it would not allow BT/EE (which holds 45 percent of immediately usable UK mobile spectrum) to bid for any more 4G spectrum – rather than force it to sell a proportion of its existing share.

Do you agree with UKWISPA’s call for Ofcom to modernise spectrum auctions? Let us know in the comments.

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