The sale was forced by the European Commission after T-Mobile and Orange merged to become Everything Everywhere in 2010, making it the largest operator in the UK.
News of the spectrum disposal comes on the same day that Ofcom has agreed to Everything Everywhere’s request to liberalise the 1800MHz spectrum band, which is currently used for 2G services, for use over Long Term Evolution (4G) networks.
An Everything Everywhere spokeswoman said: “As part of the commitments given when the European Commission approved the merger of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK in March 2010, Everything Everywhere was required to divest 2X15MHz of its 1800 MHz spectrum.”
Ofcom and the European Commission will review whether the divestment satisfies the merger commitments, and a response is expected within the next three months.”
Three would not confirm to Computerworld UK how much it purchased the spectrum for, nor whether it would be used for 4G offerings. 2X15MHz can be used for 4G, but at this bandwidth, users are likely to see a slight drop in service compared to what would be possible over 2X20MHz.
Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK said: "Acquiring this spectrum will more than double the capacity available to customers on our network. We have seen a huge growth in data consumption with average mobile handset customer usage now more than 1.1GB per month.
Three has led the market in the significant growth of mobile data consumption and the shift to consumer use of smartphones to access the internet. New spectrum, supported by further committed technology spend, is a clear signal that we are committed to maintain our lead as the network built for the mobile internet."
The decision by Ofcom to liberalise 1800MHz for 4G use has angered Everything Everywhere’s competitors, including Vodafone, which has said the decision is 'bizarre' and may end up further delaying the 4G spectrum auction, where operators will bid for 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum. It is hoped that the auction process will begin at the end of 2012.
Vodafone believes that Everything Everywhere, and Three now that it has purchased 1800MHz spectrum, will have more commercial incentive to delay the auction and other operators from getting 4G services to market.