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Push your MP to ensure Ofcom deliver a future of world-class 5G mobile services

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Later this year, the government will auction more of our nation’s airwaves to the mobile phone networks. This is to prepare the UK for a future of 5G mobile services.

However under the current rules proposed by Ofcom, BT/EE could walk off with nearly 80% of the airwaves available, meaning they could squeeze out the competition, raise prices and fail to offer the UK fast and widespread 5G coverage needed in the future.

In fact, since their merger, BT/EE already own 42%, a large slice of which they’re not even using.

At maketheairfair.org, we believe healthy competition will always provide consumers with a better mobile service and we’ve been passionately campaigning to Ofcom that no single network should own more than 30% of the airwaves.

If you agree that sounds sensible, please sign this letter so your local MP takes action and your voice is heard.

Sign the letter now.

This is your opportunity to call on your MP to make certain that Ofcom acts to Make the Air Fair. Let them know that as a UK consumer you want better service, lower prices and fair competition in the mobile market. Don’t let Ofcom make the wrong decision, help make the air fair by asking your MP what they are doing to support a 30% cap on mobile spectrum holdings.

We will send your local MP the following letter on your behalf:

Support for 30% cap in Ofcom’s release of 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum bands.

Dear MP,

You will be aware that Ofcom will shortly be auctioning off new spectrum – which will likely be used for 5G by the mobile operators, as well as to provide the services that as your constituent I use and rely on every day.

I am aware that the Ofcom consultation on the spectrum auction has closed. However, I am very concerned that Ofcom will not make the right decision in the interest of UK consumers and instead will adopt its preferred approach, which will only benefit the largest operators.

The spectrum that carries our calls, texts and data is fundamental for all mobile consumers, regardless of which network they are on. It cannot be right that just one operator, BT/EE, should be able to control 42% of these vital airwaves or that large quantities of spectrum remain unused or underused by some providers (including BT/EE). The upcoming auction of 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz mobile spectrum is an opportunity for Ofcom and Parliament to address this, and make certain that all operators have appropriate spectrum to deliver high-quality services, including 5G.

I believe that as consumers we are entitled to expect an effective choice of high-quality mobile services, wherever we live in the UK, without having to settle for a second rate service due to a lack of an alternative.

This can only be achieved through a 30% cap on the share of total spectrum that any one operator can own. In its recent consultation on the auction, Ofcom explained that 30% would be effective in addressing concerns about the current lack of competition in mobile.

Action is needed to secure the UK’s 5G future at the upcoming auction. The uncompetitive rollout of 4G, where one operator was allowed to dominate 4G spectrum holdings, meant poorer and more expensive 4G services for all of us. This must not be the case for 5G.

As my MP, I would therefore urge you to write to Ofcom to ensure proper scrutiny from Parliament and Government of any decision Ofcom makes around this auction. MPs cannot sit on the side-lines when this crucial debate around the UK’s digital future will so affect their constituents.

This also means ensuring that Ofcom does the right thing when it decides how to structure its auction. Only a 30% cap will be effective in delivering a fairer market, with greater choice for consumers. Ofcom must know that Parliament considers this a priority.

I would ask you then to write to both Ministers, and Ofcom, on these important points.

Yours sincerely,

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Would you also like us to email OFCOM with the following letter on your behalf?

Only your Full name and Email will be included.

I also want to contact Ofcom about this issue.

Ofcom Consultation: release of 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz.

Dear Ms White,

As a mobile customer, I believe that Ofcom can and should act to ensure that the mobile market delivers a genuine choice of affordable and high quality mobile services, wherever I live in the UK.

To make sure this is the case, no one company should be able to dominate the UK’s airwaves. Mobile networks rely on these vital airwaves to offer high-quality, competitive mobile services to customers. Yet the current distribution of spectrum has given the biggest operators a greater advantage than ever before.

This is already having negative consequences for mobile consumers. Ofcom’s own analysis has shown that UK mobile prices increased by 12% between July 2014 and July 2015. Three estimates that there have been similar price increases (around 10%) between 2015 and 2016.

This is the result of the current spectrum imbalance, as rising congestion on its network has meant that Three has had to increase prices. If the spectrum imbalance is not addressed with a fairer share across mobile networks, there will be reduced competition in the market and further price increases. The lack of effective competition is also likely to lead to worse quality of service, as well as reducing the number of networks I can choose from.

I believe that Ofcom must address this in the upcoming auction for 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum. The regulator should make sure that following this auction, no operator is allowed to own more than 30% of the total mobile phone spectrum in the UK - referred to as Option E in the consultation. I am concerned that the preferred option put forward by Ofcom in its consultation will not do this, and will make an already bad situation for consumers even worse.

I would also ask that high quality and competitive mobile services for consumers is Ofcom’s key consideration for the design of this auction, and other releases in the future. I confirm that this email constitutes a formal consultation response which Ofcom can publish. However, please remove any personal information before publishing.

Yours sincerely,

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Ofcom has already capped BT – what are you campaigning for?

Ofcom has not capped BT from increasing its spectrum holdings. Far from it – under its current proposals, BT would be able to bid on four fifths of the spectrum which is being auctioned this year. This allows BT to further increase its dominant position and prevent UK consumers from having access to a choice of mobile networks able to offer a fast, reliable service.

Tell me more about these airwaves being auctioned?

All wireless signals (like the ones from your phone) travel through the air via radio frequency.

We’ve been calling them airwaves so everyone understands, but actually the experts refer to them as the “spectrum”.

TV broadcasts, radio, GPS signals and every time you check Facebook or find Pikachu on Pokemon Go – all these are bits of data flying invisibly through the airwaves. The simplest way of explaining this is that it’s a bit like radio – tune your radio to one frequency and you get Kiss FM, tune to another and you magically get The Archers. This is because radio is sliced up into individual frequencies which are then given to each radio provider.

In a simplistic way, the mobile networks are similar. The likes of O2, BT/EE, Vodafone and Three all supply their service to you on certain fixed frequencies within the spectrum.

And the more slices of spectrum each one owns, the better, faster and more stable their service can be.

What’s the problem?

Here’s the rub. Some networks own or control more slices of the spectrum than others.

BT/EE own 42%, whereas Three owns 15%. Vodafone has 29%, while O2 sits on 14%.

These may seem just like numbers (and they are) but who owns the most and what they do with it has a huge impact on you, the consumer – how often you see that YouTube buffer sign, how many dropped calls you get in the Brecon Beacons and ultimately how much your monthly bill is.

Why should I care?

Who owns the most airwaves has a direct effect on your pocket and the quality of service you receive.

In the upcoming auction for more spectrum, if left as unchecked as Ofcom are currently planning, BT/EE could end up with a massive share of the spectrum. That means the other networks getting crowded out of the market, which in turn means less choice for consumers, worse network coverage, more blackspots, more complaints and higher prices.

Why is this bad?

We just need to look at other sectors that BT has monopolised. Look at what has happened to the UK’s broadband service under the dominance of BT and their subsidiary Openreach.

We have been crippled and left in the digital dark ages through their shambolic underinvestment in the UK’s network infrastructure.

A recent Select Committee report found that BT’s approach leads to it underinvesting in its Openreach infrastructure by hundreds of millions of pounds every year. This is despite its likely having received some £1.5bn of public funds to expand its network*.

Ofcom has found that the UK compares poorly with the majority of peer countries in the availability of ultrafast broadband. Fibre To The Premises technology is currently available to just 2% of premises in the UK, compared to over 60% in world-leading countries.

*P16 and p58, House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Establishing worldclass connectivity throughout the UK, 2016

How does this happen?

Fundamentally through a lack of competition, which allows one provider to deliver a poor service and charge high prices.

Organisations such as Ofcom are there to monitor and control such situations, but as we have seen with broadband, sometimes they are just not influential enough to keep things in check.

We can’t let the same thing happen to your mobile phone service.

Don’t BT/EE say they are “fastest” network? That seems pretty good to me?

Yes, they do say they are the fastest network, but the truth is they should be a lot faster than they are.

They currently own 42% of the spectrum which equates to 255MHz. That’s way more than any other network. In fact, it’s nearly three times the amount Three or O2 own.

Despite EE’s headline claims on speed, between themselves and BT they are actually sitting on around 75MHz of spectrum, a valuable national asset they’re not even using. That’s nearly as much as Three or O2 own in total, and they bought it just to ensure nobody else could. They certainly didn’t buy it to ensure a better service for consumers.

Ultimately, the other networks are using all the spectrum they own just to try and offer a decent service, whereas BT/EE are sat on a load of unused spectrum just to try and squeeze out the competition.

And we all know why competition is so important for you, the consumer.

What are we doing about it?

Our campaign, maketheairfair.org, has one simple belief:

No single network should be allowed to own more than 30% of the overall spectrum, to ensure a future of fair prices and a better service for consumers.

We need your help to make the air fair, to ensure you get a great choice of networks providing eye-popping speeds, everywhere coverage and low prices in the future. We need people everywhere to sign up with us and stand up for fairness. So you get the product you deserve, so you keep all the networks on their toes, so you don’t have to shell out more for an inferior service.

Does my voice matter?

Yes. Ofcom has run a consultation on its proposals and is considering the rules it will put in place for the next auction. Ofcom’s job is to protect consumers which means your voice really matters. The best way for you to support a 30% cap is to continue to make your views heard to Ofcom.

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