UK government facing £300m refund to mobile operators

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

Operators appealed and won after Ofcom upped annual spectrum license fees at the request of the government, according to an FT report

The UK government could be forced to pay mobile operators up to £300 million after a court upheld an appeal against government-approved spectrum licence fee rise, according to an FT report.

Regulator Ofcom was tasked by the government in 2015 with increasing fees for spectrum licences, a move which resulted in operators paying an estimated £200 million a year for access to bandwidth.

The decision sparked anger from UK operators who claimed the regulator had incorrectly calculated the amounts by failing to include other costs, such as the price to actually run a network.

According to the FT, the UK Court of Appeal upheld the operator’s challenge, led by BT-owned EE, against the rises, meaning the UK treasury is likely to be forced to return the increased fees paid over the last two years –estimated to be worth between £200-£300 million the report claims.

The FT report quoted Ofcom as saying: “This case raised an important point of law concerning the government’s spectrum direction to Ofcom. We are considering the judgement carefully,”

EE said it was happy with the verdict, with a spokesperson adding: “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.”