In the aftermath of the 4G spectrum auction almost everyone came away with something, but some networks will likely be a lot happier with the results than others. Vodafone were arguably the big winners, with the most spent and the most gained. However EE weren't far behind and let’s not forget that they already have access to the 1800 MHz band- which is what they've been using over the last few months while waiting for the auction to get underway.
Overall that seems to leave EE with the most 4G spectrum in the UK, which is certainly something they want to emphasise if their post-auction statement is anything to go by.
Olaf Swantee, Chief Executive of EE, said: "EE is extremely pleased with the outcome of the spectrum auction. Coupled with our existing 1800MHz 4G network, it consolidates our position as the most advanced, largest and most capable 4G operator in the UK.
“The acquisition of low and high frequency spectrum allows us to boost our superfast data services and coverage - indoors and outdoors, in cities and the countryside. This result means that we are perfectly placed to meet future data capacity demands - further enhancing the superfast 4G services we already offer the UK’s consumers and businesses. We look forward to continuing the rollout of the nation’s fastest mobile internet services.”
Big words certainly, but it doesn’t seem untrue. Based on the auction results the bulk of their competition is likely to come from Vodafone, who can’t be far behind in terms of 4G capabilities, though of course they also have a few months catching up to do, as EE have had free reign on the market since November.
Expanding on their statement, EE claim that their customers will benefit from the “widest and most capable spectrum portfolio in the UK”, which is certainly true for now, while they’re the only company offering 4G services. Now all they need to do is drop the price.
In addition to releasing a statement EE have helpfully quantified what they believe to be the total share of spectrum holdings that each company has in the UK. EE unsurprisingly come out on top with 36%, Vodafone- who outbid them at the auction but didn’t have any existing holdings, now have 28%, O2 have just 15%, Three have even less at 12% and BT- the wild-card of the bunch, have just 9%.
That makes the split hugely uneven, as Vodafone and EE have around twice as much 4G spectrum as O2 and Three (both of whom opted only to purchase spectrum in the 800 MHz band). The 800 MHz band was more sought after than the 2.6 GHz band, as it is longer range, making it better for covering large areas. However over a short distance it isn’t as fast as the 2.6 GHz band, which could hold it back in cities.
It remains to be seen how this will affect the two companies, though in the case of O2 their network of wireless hotspots should help negate the absence of 2.6 GHz 4G in urban areas.