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UK telco BT has been revealed as one of the bidders in the UK’s forthcoming 4G mobile spectrum auction – the largest ever sale of mobile airwaves in the UK. The telco was one of the successful bidders for 3G spectrum via its Cellnet subsidiary in 2000, but sold the rebranded O2 unit to Spain’s Telefónica for £18 billion (€22bn) in 2005.
The UK’s existing 3G licensees are also joined by a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s PCCW and UK based fully managed networks supplier MLL Telecom among the seven bidders named by industry regulator Ofcom.
The following organisations have qualified to bid in the auction, which will start in January 2013:
Bidders will be competing to acquire new capacity to roll out superfast 4G mobile broadband services to cities, towns and villages across the UK.
This new spectrum will boost the amount of airwaves available to mobile phones by more than 75 per cent and will play a critical role in helping to meet a growing demand for mobile data among consumers.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said the 4G auction would be a competitive process that would dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond. “New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections,” he stated.
Bidders will be competing for spectrum in two separate bands – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the ‘digital dividend’ freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off, which is Ofcom says is ideal for widespread mobile coverage.
The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds. These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333 MHz in use today. Both bands are being packaged into smaller lots for the auction.
This combination of low and high frequency spectrum creates the potential for 4G mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres, says Ofcom.