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O2 gets legal on Ofcom

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O2 turns to CAT over Ofcom’s failure to respond to licence amendment request.
The UK’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, O2 UK, has lodged an appeal with the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) alleging that telecoms regulator Ofcom has failed to consider a request by the cellco related to the reuse of old spectrum for 3G services, Mobile News reports. O2 has criticised the watchdog for not responding to its request in a timely manner, and it is understood that it has called on the CAT to direct Ofcom to amend its licence in line with the European UNI0N’s GSM Directive, which came into force in October 2009 and requires EU member states to allow the use of 2G spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz band for third-generation services by 9 May 2010.

O2 has contended that it made a formal request to Ofcom in March this year to vary its licence in line with the new Directive by granting permission to offer 3G services using the 900MHz band. The regulator is believed to have not reached a decision on the matter in part as a result of uncertainty regarding government policy on spectrum due to the General Election that took place earlier this month.

O2, like Vodafone, was given some 900MHz spectrum in which to run a 2G telephony service, back in the days when spectrum was allocated, not sold. Since then the EU has directed that local regulators (Ofcom in the UK) vary the licences and allow 3G to be deployed, which should have happened by May 9th and is the basis of O2's complaint.

The problem in the UK is that we have three operators who were never given any plum low-frequency spectrum, and those operators argue that the huge amount they paid for 3G spectrum (at 2.1GHz) was on the basis that it was the only frequency at which 3G would be allowed. Opening up other bands to 3G therefore devalues their investment.

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