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Change of bids for wireless broadband auction

Speculation that Pacific Century CyberWorks was violating the terms of the 3.4GHz auction process by submitting 15 separate applications has been followed by a U-turn

Pacific Century CyberWorks has revised its application to take part in the forthcoming wireless broadband auction, after concern that the company's initial approach might not have been permitted by the Radiocommunications Agency (RA).

The government confirmed on Tuesday that the Hong Kong-based operator has withdrawn all but one of its original 15 applications.

This should give the company a clear run at winning control of the UK's 3.4GHz band of radio spectrum, which could ultimately help to close Britain's broadband divide. Eleven other operators have also registered an interest in taking part. Licensees will be able to set up a nationwide broadband wireless network, which would be able to reach areas currently out of reach of technologies such as ADSL.

As ZDNet UK News reported earlier this month, fifteen subsidiaries of PCCW all applied to take part in the 3.4GHz auction. This prompted an investigation by the RA, as this approach could have given an unfair advantage in the auction process.

Each company taking part in the auction should get the chance to suspend the process three times. In theory, a company with 15 subsidiaries would get 45 of these "time outs".

Given the reluctance of large UK telecoms firms to take part in the auction process, the government would have been most disinclined to throw out a major player such as PCCW.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry refused to speculate on whether PCCW had been ordered to withdraw 14 of its subsidiaries from the fray, but did suggest that it "made more sense this way".

The government is still checking the status of all 12 companies who wish to bid for the 15 regional licences that will be available. An announcement, including a starting date for the bidding process, is expected later this week.


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