Help make the air fair and tell Ofcom that you support a 30% cap on mobile spectrum holdings. Fill in your details below.
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 next 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.
Sharon White is the Chief Executive of media regulator Ofcom. She is the first woman to lead Ofcom.
Ofcom’s job is to make sure that people in the UK get the best from their communications services and ensure that competition can thrive.
As Ofcom’s boss – Sharon’s job is to champion ordinary consumers in phone, TV and broadband.
She was appointed to the role in 2015. We believe that Sharon has consumers’ best interests at heart. She said in a speech in October 2015, “Ofcom’s top priority is to ensure that consumers get the best possible deal. This means the best possible services, at the lowest possible prices.” She then goes on to say, “Competition is the indispensable force that drive these results for consumers.”
Sharon grew up in East London and then went to Cambridge University where she graduated with a BA in Economics.
After her studies she became a civil servant and rose to become the first black person to hold the position of Second Permanent Secretary at the Treasury between 2013 and 2015.
Sharon is a mum of two. She is regarded as one of the most influential women in Whitehall and has recently been voted in the top 10 Black Powerlist.
Sharon is our consumer champion. Like us, she believes in fairness and competition. This is why we believe she will listen to our voices and impose the 30% cap, so that no one network will dominate the mobile internet.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.