UK consumers denied faster mobile speeds

Mobile consumers are missing out on faster mobile speeds by networks’ hoarding large amounts of the airwaves used to provide a mobile phone service.

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.

The amount of unused spectrum they hold is greater than all the spectrum currently owned by Three or O2 standalone.

Putting the unused airwaves to use would mean more seamless video streaming, quicker uploads to Instagram and faster browsing on the internet.

Spectrum is the lifeblood of 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.

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.

“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.”




Notes to Editors

Notes to Editors

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. 

The study is based on the unused spectrum being used on either the O2 or Three networks. 

UK’s current spectrum shares: 

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

About Make the Air Fair 

The Make the Air Fair campaign is founded by Three UK and supported by TalkTalk, CityFibre, the Federation of Communication Services, Gamma and Relish.

The campaign calls on Ofcom to put a limit in place so that no one network can own more than 30% of the useable mobile airwaves after the upcoming auction. With campaign partners including Three Mobile, TalkTalk, the Federation of Communications Services and Cityfibre, “Make the Air Fair” calls on Ofcom to apply a cap of 30% on the total amount of mobile spectrum any one company can. This will create conditions where each operator has the ability to compete against each fairly. 

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