Ofcom consults on licence fee tweak

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U.K. regulator proposes charging £223.3 million per year for 900-MHz, 1800-MHz spectrum.

Ofcom on Thursday launched a consultation on proposed changes to the annual licence fee for 900-MHz and 1800-MHz spectrum, after the U.K.’s mobile operators committed to rolling out 90% mobile coverage by the end of 2017.

In August 2014, the telco regulator announced it was considering increasing the charge to £246.7 million from £64.4 million to more accurately reflect its market value.

However, in December, EE, O2, Vodafone and 3UK agreed to eliminate so-called ‘not-spots’, guaranteeing voice and SMS coverage to 90% of the U.K.’s landmass by the end of 2017. The commitment was finalised earlier this month.

As a result, Ofcom is considering lowering the proposed increase to £223.3 million.

“Ofcom’s initial view is that while there could be incremental costs incurred by the mobile operators in meeting the coverage obligation, it is unlikely to have a material effect on the market value of the spectrum,” the watchdog said in a statement. “However, Ofcom is open to considering alternative views before reaching a final decision.”

The consultation is due to close on 17 April. Ofcom said the revised fees are likely to come into effect later this year.