updated 09:46 am EST, Thu December 20, 2012
Major UK networks joined by PCCW, BT in auction
UK regulator of communications Ofcom has revealed the companies that can bid in its oncoming 4G spectrum auction. The list of seven companies that have qualified in order to take part includes all of the major phone networks in the UK, as well as two that do not currently operate as mobile carriers in the United Kingdom.
Owners of Three and O2, Hutchison 3G UK and Telefonica UK, join Vodafone and Everything Everywhere in the bidding, with all but Everything Everywhere looking to start setting up their 4G network in the future. EE, already offering 4G access to its customers as well as those of Orange and T-Mobile, will be looking to expand their allowance of spectrum, in order to offer more bandwidth to their customers. HKT UK, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based network operator PCCW, and business-to-business network MML Telecom are also included in the auction.
The appearance of Niche Spectrum Ventures in the 4G auction is a surprise, it being a subsidiary of telecoms giant British Telecom. It was BT that created Cellnet, the company that would become O2 and then later sold to Telefonica, leading to the idea that it could use the 4G spectrum to relaunch a mobile phone network, as well as offer broadband to its rural customers.
Ofcom will be holding the 4G auction for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz ranges until April, with winning bidders expected to go live in May or June. Combined reserve prices for the auction total over £1.3 billion ($2 billion), though winning bids are expected to total between £2 billion and £4 billion ($3.2 billion and $6.4 billion).