Your mobile phone bill could rocket as firms face operating fees hike
Mobile phone users could face massive bills after the communications regulator announced it was to treble annual fees for operators.
Ofcom will now charge Vodafone, O2, EE and Three around £200 million a year to use mobile bandwidth, up from £64.4m currently.
The figure is 13% lower than the regulator's earlier proposals in February but is still more than three times the present fee.
Fees vary for each operator depending on the bandwidth they use but, under the new charges, Vodafone and O2 will see theirs more than triple from £15.6m a year to £49.6m.
EE's charges will rise from £24.9m to £75m, while Three's bill will go from £8.3m to £25m.
The new fees will be introduced in two phases and will be in place by the end of October 2016.
Half the increase will be payable from October 31 and the second half a year later, with full fees payable annually from that point.
Ofcom's Philip Marnick said the hike meant operators will finally pay a fair price for the use of the UK's airwaves.
"The mobile industry has not previously had to pay market value for access to this spectrum, which is a valuable and finite resource, and the new fees reflect that value," he said.
The price comparison site cable.co.uk said it was fair for providers to pay for a finite resource, but it warned that the money "has to come from somewhere".
Dan Howdle, the site's telecoms spokesman, said: "There can be absolutely no doubt as to the fairness of simply ensuring the UK's mobile network providers pay a fair price for what is absolutely a finite resource.
"But, of course, the money has to come from somewhere. And while on paper O2, Vodafone, Three and EE appear in arguably rude health from the perspective of their announced operating profits earlier this year, behind closed doors they are unlikely to be happy to see their war chest diminished."
Ofcom said it did not agree that customers' bills would have to rise as a result of the fees increase.
A spokesman said: "The operators have had five years' notice that the fees would be increased to reflect full market value and we expect them to have budgeted for this."
A spokesman for mobile operator EE slammed the new charges. "We think Ofcom has got this wrong," he said.
A Vodafone spokesman said the company would be reviewing Ofcom's new fees and it was "too early to say" whether costs would be passed on to consumers.