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BT joins O2, EE and Vodafone in 4G auctions

20 Dec 2012
Mobile spectrum antenna against sunset

BT has been revealed as a surprise bidder in the forthcoming 4G auctions alongside established mobile operators Three, O2, EE and Vodafone.

The list of bidders was announced by Ofcom on Thursday and will see the firms compete for access to a portion of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands in the auctions, which are set to begin in January.

Two other firms are also in the running: PCCW, the owner of UK Broadband, which offers 4G services in other spectrum bands in areas such as Swindon and Southwark; and MLL telecoms, which provides public sector spectrum services.

The move by BT to enter the auctions, under a subsidiary trading name of Niche Spectrum Ventures, is almost certainly designed to give the firm additional resources to help meet its numerous rollouts of broadband connections across the UK.

The firm has already trialled the technology in rural areas, such as Cornwall, to see how it could be used as an alternative means to ensuring all homes and businesses receive a solid internet connections of 2MBit/s or above.

V3 contacted BT for more comment on the move to enter the auctions but the firm said it had nothing to add.

Telecoms analyst Matthew Howett from Ovum said the new bidders looking to gain 4G spectrum, such as BT, were unlikely to radically shake up the market but would be able to broaden their offerings to customers.

“These additional bidders are likely to be chasing spectrum in the 2.6GHz band to largely offer mobile broadband services to business users alongside the existing telecommunications services they already provide them,” he said.

“On its own, this spectrum would not be enough to operate a nationwide network, so post auction we expect to see the same industry structure we are familiar with today.”

The remaining bidders are likely to be looking to secure a portion of both spectrum bands as they seek to ensure they can meet the ever-growing demands for data from customers.

EE has already had 4G networks live since November on its existing 1800MHz band after Ofcom gave it the green-light to do so, while at the same time bringing forward the auctions for the other spectrum bands to appease rivals such as O2 and Vodafone.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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