Mobile Network Operators in the UK are set to claim back the Annual Licence Fees they paid for spectrum between 2017 and 2017

UK mobile network operators could be in line for an enormous £220 million rebate, following a court ruling against the country’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom.

The High Court ruled that Ofcom’s decision to quadruple its Annual Licence Fees (ALFs) for spectrum between 2015 and 2017 was illegal, opening the door for operators to recoup the fees they paid during that period.  

“We are delighted with the court’s ruling. Ofcom has previously acknowledged that it failed to follow proper process in raising the licence fees and the court has now confirmed that the overpayments should be returned,” a Vodafone spokesperson told journalists from the Financial Times

The court immediately granted Ofcom the right to appeal against its ruling, which the UK telecoms regulator looks set to do. 

“This case has been decided on what is a technical and important point of law, and the judge has recognised this by granting Ofcom permission to appeal further to the Court of Appeal. The mobile operators did not challenge the amount they pay for this valuable spectrum, but the judgment means they get a windfall of more than £220m,” an Ofcom spokesperson said. 

The rebate could not come at a better time for UK MNOs who are struggling to balance the monumental capex demands of their 5G rollout programmes with flat revenue streams. Vodafone has already committed to launch 5G in the UK on the 3rd July 2019, with EE expected to make a similar announcement at a press event on Wednesday of this week. 

The UK’s MNOs are currently in discussion with the government on negotiating a more cost-effective strategy for achieving 95 per cent geographic coverage of the UK and reducing the number of connectivity notspots across the country. 

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