3.4GHz auction: All systems go

Details about the new wireless broadband auction have hit the Web ahead of a government announcement on Friday. All the auction needs now is some bidders

The forthcoming 3.4GHz wireless broadband auction has been given a provisional starting date of 26 May.

The government is expected to announce full details on Friday, but the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) published the information memorandum on its Web site on Thursday. A deadline to register interest for the 3.4GHz auction has been set at 14 April -- although this could change. The early date for this deadline is designed to help the government weed out unsuitable candidates.

The RA has revealed that the auction will run for two weeks, and that any licences that are left over after 6 June will still be available for at least another year.

Fifteen 3.4GHz licences are on offer -- seven covering metropolitan areas, seven covering rural areas, and one for Northern Ireland. This distribution has caused some controversy, especially in Wales where politicians and industry figures fought in vain for two Wales-only licences.

The government hopes that companies will use 3.4GHz to offer wireless broadband services in rural areas. However, there are concerns that the auction may flounder because large telcos decline to take part in it. BT, NTL and Telewest are all expected not to take part.

This has left the government hoping that smaller players will take part, and the DTI explained on Thursday that this could include Regional Development Agencies. "A Regional Development Agency would be able to take part in the auction, as long as they did so in partnership with a company," a DTI spokesman told ZDNet, explaining that a public-private partnership between an RDA and a commercial operator would be acceptable.

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