UK sees surprise 4G bidders

Seven firms have qualified to bid in the UK’s 4G spectrum auction, including three new entrants. Joining EE, 3UK, O2 and Vodafone are HKT – a subsidiary of PCCW; MLL Telecom; and Niche Spectrum Ventures – a subsidiary of BT.

The companies will bid for spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, the former band being part of the ‘digital dividend’ freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off.

“The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive.

“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.”

PCCW is a Hong Kong-based firm which has fixed-line, broadband internet, TV and mobile business units. The firm operates in 16 markets globally. MLL Telecom is a UK firm specialising in designing, installing, managing and maintaining backhaul links and wide area networks. And UK incumbent BT formed Niche Spectrum Ventures in June 2012, although CEO Ian Livingston has previously said that the company has no plans to become a national mobile operator.

Earlier this week, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that it too will auction off around 200MHz of the radio spectrum it owns. All of the spectrum is below 15GHz and will enable operators to beef up their LTE spectrum portfolio.

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