Telecom Operators

UK consumers denied faster mobile speeds due to hoarded spectrum, claims Three

Mobile consumers are missing out on faster mobile speeds by networks’ hoarding large amounts of the airwaves used to provide a mobile phone service, claims UK mobile operator Three. Together, EE (owned by BT) and Vodafone are sitting on a pool of unused airwaves, commonly known as spectrum, which if redistributed could as much as triple mobile data speeds for customers of other operators, says Three.

“The amount of unused spectrum they hold is greater than all the spectrum currently owned by Three or O2 standalone,” said Three in a release. “Putting the unused airwaves to use would mean more seamless video streaming, quicker uploads to Instagram and faster browsing on the internet,” the operator claims.

Spectrum is essential to the mobile industry and the single biggest factor in determining a network’s ability to deliver speeds, capacity and coverage that consumers want and businesses need.  Three is part of the ‘MakeTheAirFair campaign’, calling on telecoms regulator Ofcom to cap the amount of spectrum that a single company can own at 30%. This cap would ensure a fairer balance in spectrum allocation, improving services across the board.

Research was conducted by Three’s Network team which created a model based on EE and Vodafone’s unused spectrum to show what speed improvements could be gained by customers on the Three and O2 networks. Dave Dyson, Chief Executive at Three UK, said: “This research shines a light on how much quicker speeds could be for mobile consumers, if only the UK’s airwaves were shared more fairly.” 

Dyson added: “BT/EE and Vodafone are sitting on a vital and finite public resource that should be used to deliver a faster and more stable service for customers of all mobile networks. A 30% cap on useable spectrum will deliver the best outcome for mobile users in the UK.”

UK’s current spectrum shares: 

  •  BT/EE: 42%
  •  Vodafone: 29%
  •  Three: 15%
  •  O2: 14%