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BT's Hot for 4G

Ray Le Maistre
12/20/2012

6:40 AM -- BT Group plc, through a subsidiary called Niche Spectrum Ventures, has been officially identified by regulator Ofcom as a bidder for 4G spectrum in the U.K., along with six others.

This comes as no surprise: Ever since BT spun off its wireless business in 2001 to help reduce its debts, mobile has become an increasingly important part of the communications industry and the British incumbent's lack of its own mobile services business has stuck out like a sore thumb.

So, if successful in the auction, which begins in January, what will BT do with any spectrum (in the 800MHz and 2.6 GHz bands) it secures?

The operator has said before that it doesn't intend to be a national mobile operator to rival the likes of Everything Everywhere Ltd. (EE), Vodafone UK et al. But there's plenty more it could do.

It's likely BT will target spectrum in the 2.6GHz band, as that would provide it with the ability to develop a wireless broadband service to complement its fixed broadband and Wi-Fi access services and tailor a package of services targeted at enterprise users (though it would need a 3G partner to offer efficient service continuity).

It would also have the option to become a 4G mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE), a proposition made stronger by having its own national backhaul network.

It's hard to imagine that BT won't pull the stops out to get its hands on some spectrum, not only because of the service and marketing opportunities but because it will make the operator a more complete communications services provider (CSP) in the eyes of its customers, partners and investors. Getting its hands on a 4G license and then either building or sharing a radio access network (RAN) will cost a lot of money but the value it could add to BT is potentially far greater.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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