5G battle hots up as EE lodges complaint over Three UK advert

Advertising Standards Authority to investigate whether claims breach code

The first hostilities have broken out among telecoms rivals over who offers the best 5G to customers, with EE seeking an advertising ban against claims by Three UK that it offers the only “real” next-generation service.

BT-owned EE is understood to have lodged a complaint with the advertising watchdog over an ad campaign by Three UK implying that 5G services offered by rivals are inferior.

The campaign, which runs with the tag line “If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G”, ran in newspapers and on social media. The Advertising Standards Authority will now investigate whether Three UK’s 5G claim is in breach of the advertising code on grounds including being misleading.

Three UK is basing its claims of superiority on the fact that it has almost three times as much of the valuable 5G spectrum as any of its rivals, which means faster download speeds, and is the only operator to have a 100MHz block, which is considered the gold standard of 5G.

Three UK gained control of a modest amount of 5G spectrum via the auction run by telecoms regulator Ofcom in 2018. However, it super-charged its position, gaining control of significantly more 5G spectrum, following a £250m move to buy UK Broadband.

EE, Vodafone and O2 have each aired their concerns over the “competitive advantage” they fear Three UK could have offering 5G services.

Vodafone summed up the threat rivals feel Three UK poses in its submission to Ofcom’s review of the impact of the UK Broadband deal, saying: “There is a real prospect that Three UK will have a monopoly in the provision of ultra-high speed, ultra-high bandwidth services.”

Three UK is aiming to use its clout in 5G to offer customers the chance to internet-enable their entire homes, doing away with the need for a traditional broadband service delivered through a landline connection.

On Monday, the company launched 5G home broadband initially in central London with a “plug and play” hub to allow superfast streaming throughout the home. The router connects directly to a 5G mobile phone signal to get internet connectivity, so users don’t need to pay a landline rental fee.

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“No more paying for landline rental, no more waiting for engineers,” said Dave Dyson, chief executive of Three UK. “Home broadband using 5G is going to be key to the future of the connected home.”

Three UK is launching its 5G network for mobile users, as well as extending its home broadband offering, in 25 cities later this year. EE and Vodafone have already launched their 5G networks with O2, the fourth main player in the UK, set to go live in October.

“Three UK is in pole position when it comes to its potential with 5G given the huge slice of spectrum it owns,” said Ben Wood, the chief of research at CCS Insight.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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