Government criticised over wireless licence sale

18 Jun 2003

The UK sale of 3.4GHz bandwidth broadband fixed wireless access (BWFA) licences was completed on Tuesday with Hong Kong’s PCCW [NYSE:PCW] picking up 13 of the 15 concessions sold. The Hong Kong telco entered the auction with the intention of bidding for every region and eliminated smaller rivals in 40 rounds of bidding which in the process raised GBP7.4 million for government coffers. The move has been trumpeted as an important step in making the UK a leading player in the broadband sector, reinforcing the government’s current Broadband Britain campaign. Unsuccessful bidders have complained, however, that the decision to grant the bulk of the awards to an international giant contradicts its stated policy of promoting ‘local enthusiasm and resources’. Concerns have also been raised that PCCW could use the licences to build a national network purely as a relay for 3G services, incurring less cost than installing a national system of base stations.

The two remaining licences were purchased by Red Spectrum, which won the Northern region, and Public Hub, the Southern region. None of the new licensees is obliged to launch services within a set period of time.

United Kingdom