The government's auction for 3G UK mobile network licences -- the first in Europe -- begins today.
Only five licences for blocks of the 3G spectrum are being auctioned, although 13 companies have applied. The licence with the largest amount of spectrum has been reserved for a new entrant into the UK market.
"Early licensing for 3G mobile is essential if the UK is to remain at the forefront of the global telecommunications market," stated government e-Minister, Patricia Hewitt. "The increased competition and innovation in the mobile market that this will bring is good news for the UK economy and consumers."
Bidding for the licences will take place in a series of rounds. Hopefuls will be bidding simultaneously for any one of the five licences. The auction, which is expected to last several weeks, will end when no further bids are received.
The 13 companies bidding for licences are 3G UK, BT (quote: BT), Crescent Wireless, Epsilon Tele.Com, NTL Mobile, One.Tel Global Wireless, One2One, Orange (quote: ORA) 3G, SpectrumCo, TIW UMTS, Telefonica UK, Vodafone Airtouch (quote: VOD) and WorldCom Wireless.
3G, or UMTS, will bring true multimedia capabilities to wireless networks, offering speeds of up to 2MB/sec. UMTS is the European iteration of IMT-2000, which is the global 3G network planned by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).