BT among seven bidders in 4G auction

Seven telecomes companies have thrown their hats in the ring for high speed 4G mobile spectrum

LAST UPDATED AT 08:18 ON Fri 21 Dec 2012

SEVEN telecoms companies have thrown their hats in the ring to bid for high speed 4G mobile spectrum, according to The Times.

The seven bidders, of which four will be awarded licences, are O2, EE, Vodafone, BT, PCCW of Hong Kong, MLL Telecom, a private-equity backed company in Buckinghamshire, and Hutchison, which is behind Three. The surprise bidder in the race is BT which pulled out of the mobile phone market after it demerged Cellnet in 2001.

The number of bidders will be a boost to Chancellor George Osborne's hopes of raising £3.5 billion or more from the auction.

Ed Richards, chief executive of telecom and media regulator Ofcom which is running the sale, refused to be drawn on how much he thought would be raised. Richards said his job was to ensure efficient use of Britain's airwaves rather than to raise the maximum amount of cash from the deal.

4G is up to 10 times faster than current 3G services and will allow the 60 per cent of Britons with a smartphone to stream TV shows and movies to their phones without waiting. One operator, EE - a merger between T-Mobile and Orange - has already launched a 4G service on spectrum it already owned.

Hopes of a big revenue for the Treasury have also been raised by the success of a similar auction in the Netherlands which raised £3.1 billion last week.
Ireland achieved £700 million from its sale.

Back in 2000 the auction of 3G mobile licences raised an astonishing £22.5 billion but Richards said that was "in the days of the dotcom boom". Bidding in the UK will start next month and services could be launched as early as the spring. · 

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