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3G/HSPA

Brits Kickstart Broadband Spectrum Offer

British regulator Ofcom announced Friday the terms and conditions surrounding its proposed auction of 2.6 GHz spectrum that could be used for mobile WiMax services in the U.K., and revealed that the spectrum can be used for any services and the licenses may be traded following their award.

Ofcom said it will "release the spectrum in the 2010-2025 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz bands (known as 2.6 GHz) on a technology and service neutral basis... In total 205 MHz will be available and Ofcom expects to start the auction process in the summer. There are a number of potential uses of the 2.6 GHz spectrum including mobile broadband wireless services... using technologies such as WiMAX or evolutions of 3G technology. The auction has been designed to offer the maximum flexibility in the way that the bands can be used and all licences will be tradable."

Ofcom also notes that "the number of licences to be awarded and the precise frequencies which each licence will cover will be determined by the award process."

The full and exhaustive details of the process can be found at this page on Ofcom's Website.

Service providers have been waiting anxiously for the 2500 to 2690 MHz frequency band, also known as the IMT-2000 expansion band, to add 3G capacity and plan mobile WiMax services. The award of that spectrum was originally due late last year or early in 2008. (See Ofcom Denies Spectrum Bundling .)

Ofcom is now asking any interested parties to respond to its plans by May 6. BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is expected to be involved in the process, along with a bunch of WiMax specialists and the U.K.'s 3G mobile operators -- Telefónica UK Ltd. , Vodafone UK , T-Mobile (UK) , Orange UK , and Three UK . (See BT Wants WiMax.)

While the auction could raise an unlimited amount of money, no one in the industry is expecting the bidding to be as crazy as the initial 3G spectrum auction in 2000, when the five current spectrum holders shelled out £22.5 billion (US$45 billion) between them in a process that helped burst the telecom bubble.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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