Vodafone calls for 5G auction to be scrapped
Vodafone wants the government to cancel an auction where mobile operators bid on “space” on the 5G spectrum.
The decision to remove the Huawei kit from mobile networks and the economic uncertainty from the Covid-19 crisis follows.
And Vodafone says that radio frequencies for 5G mobile services should instead be evenly distributed at a set price.
The auction was scheduled to begin in the spring, but was delayed due to the coronavirus. It is now expected at some point in the coming year.
But the process was fraught with delays, with EE and Three launching legal challenges in a previous auction for Ofcom’s decision to impose a 37% limit on what each individual operator could offer, and O2 challenging the upcoming 700MHz rod and 3.6- 3.8 GHz bands.
And this week, the government ruled that Huawei’s 5G kit should be removed from mobile networks by 2027, noting that this could delay the implementation of 5G in the UK by several years and cost up to £ 2 billion.
Ofcom rejected Vodafone’s suggestion in April.
But Vodafone CEO Nick Jeffery told BBC News on Thursday: “Now is the time to consider a new way to manage these auctions.
“The return on investment in the telecommunications sector in the UK is among the lowest in the world.
“With the further withdrawal of money from the mobile industry from yesterday’s decision on Huawei, now is the time to focus on ensuring that operators can still afford to invest in the network that this country deserves.
“It doesn’t make much sense for operators to own the spectrum if we don’t have the money to use it.
“History teaches us from 3G auctions.”
The 3G auction cost operators £ 20 billion.
Telecommunication analyst Mathew Howett of Assembly Research said: “There is clearly a cost to the industry in terms of replacing Huawei sooner than operators could have done naturally.
“The government cannot expect the industry to accelerate the spread of networks if they accumulate on additional costs and slow down the launch.”
But he added: “The last time the government directed Ofcom on the spectrum – the liberalization of gangs for 4G and the associated annual licensing costs – the legal challenges have been going on for a decade.”
Any changes to the way the spectrum was distributed would also require agreement from all four operators.
But, according to Vodafone, others are “passionate”.
BT, owner of EE, told BBC News that it was “less concerned about the allocation mechanism of the new spectrum, be it an auction or an administrative decision, than the importance of assigning the spectrum quickly and fairly … to prevent 5G ambitions in the UK from being slowed down or even reversed. “
And he was talking to Ofcom and the government about “ways to reduce the industry’s cost burden”.
Tre and O2 did not respond to requests for comment.