Operators win license battle with Ofcom

It’s not often that companies get money back from the government but British mobile operators are in line for a bit of a windfall, thanks to the decision from the Court of Appeal.

According to a report in the FT, the court has awarded the mobile operators – EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 – up to £300m in refunds after it heard that Ofcom had wrongly calculated the amount that mobile license fees should be.

In 2015, the regulator had proposed a hike to annual licence fees for the 900MHz and 1800MHz (3G /4G) radio spectrum bands, an increase that was fiercely contested by the operators, believing that Ofcom had failed to take into account the costs of running the services.  The operators undertook a Judicial Review to examine the process, the decision of which has just been made.

Leave to appeal

But the operators won’t be banking the money just yet: Ofcom has been given leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, so there may be further twists in the tale. In addition, the judgment depended on the interpretation of EU law, so it’s unclear whether that would still apply by the time the second appeal was heard.

In the meantime, the operators were jubilant. “We’ve always supported the view that the trebling of spectrum fees was excessive and would harm network investment. With this judgment we can continue to invest in those network improvements that really make a difference to consumers and businesses across the UK,” said an EE spokesman.