LONDON (04/11/2000) - The combined value of the high bids in the U.K. government's auction for third-generation wireless licenses passed the 17 billion pound (US$26.95 billion) mark in the 113th bidding round today, with even the least expensive license set to soon pass the 3 billion pound mark.
Eight of the original 13 bidders remain, competing for the five 20-year 3G licenses based on the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) standard. In addition to voice, the 3G networks are designed to provide voice and data rates of up to 2M-bits-per-second.
The bidding arm of Spain's Telefonica SA re-entered the bidding yesterday after last week having used two of its three chances to sit out a round. [See "Telefonica Hedges as 3G Stakes Increase in U.K.," April 7.]The amount of money the companies are spending has been rapidly increasing.
When the bidding closed early on Thursday, the combined total was 14.34 billion pounds. The continued bidding of yesterday and today have already added nearly 3 billion pounds to that amount.
The remaining companies include the bidding arms of the U.K.'s four incumbent mobile companies -- British Telecommunications PLC, Orange PLC, Vodafone AirTouch PLC and One2One PLC. The incumbents are not permitted to bid on License A, which has the largest spectrum and is reserved for a newcomer.
At the end of the 113th round today, the top bidder for License A was TIW UMTS (UK) Ltd. -- a subsidiary of Canada's Telesystem International Wireless Inc. -- with a bid of 3.6 billion pounds. License B is currently at 4.55 billion, with Vodafone leading the bidding. License C is at 2.95 billion, with the highest bid placed by the bidding arm of MCI WorldCom Inc. The bid for License D is currently led by Deutsche Telekom AG-backed One2One at 2.96 billion, while the current high bid for License E is by theTelefonica unit, at 2.99 billion.
NTL Mobile Ltd., a joint venture of cable company NTL and France Telecom SA is also still participating in the auction, but doesn't bid again until the next round.
More information on the auction, including the most recent bids and a round by round recap, can be found on the Web at http://www.spectrumauctions.gov.uk/.