Mobile operator Three has failed its court appeal to force Ofcom to impose stricter restrictions on the sale of 5G spectrum in an upcoming auction.
Three, owned by Hong-Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison, is the smallest mobile operator in the UK in terms of subscribers. In terms of existing spectrum ownership, Three owns a 15 percent share of the market. For comparison — BT/EE holds a 42 percent share, Vodafone 29 percent, and O2 14 percent.
Looking at these holdings, it’s clear to see why Three attempted to merge with O2. The move would have put the operator on a level playing field with Vodafone in terms of spectrum, and increased competitiveness against BT/EE. Regulators blocked the deal on concern just three operators would reduce healthy competition.
With that in mind, Three has fought to ensure it has priority access to 5G spectrum in the upcoming Ofcom auction. The operator wanted larger operators to be more restricted to the share any single player may own. However, it’s failed to make its case for the last time after previously facing defeat in the High Court.
A spokesman for Ofcom said:
"The Court of Appeal has very firmly rejected Three’s application for permission to appeal on all grounds.
We welcome this decision, and will now press ahead with releasing these important airwaves. This new capacity will allow mobile companies to offer more reliable reception, and to prepare for future 5G services.”
The UK government is eager to ensure the country is at the forefront of 5G development and deployment. Today’s ruling will be seen as a win by the government in ensuring a vital step towards a rollout is achieved without delay.
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