Wireless broadband licences to start at £100,000

The government has released more information about the forthcoming 3.4GHz auction process, including six-figure reserve prices

Companies who wish to offer wireless broadband services will be able to bid as little as £100,000 for a licence.

The government announced more details about the forthcoming 3.4GHz auction on Tuesday. It will make 15 regional licences available, with one licence per region. Prices for three metropolitan licences -- covering London, the North and the Midlands -- will begin at £300,000, with the remaining 12 licences starting at £100,000.

The auction will take place in May this year, and companies can make preliminary bids from March. Once the initial one-month auction process has taken place, any unsold licences will remain available for another year.

As ZDNet UK reported earlier this month, the licences will not be subject to roll-out obligations or services restrictions. Some in the industry have claimed that this is a mistake by the government, as successful bidders will not be forced to make a service available by a fixed date, or even use the bandwidth for commercial broadband services.

The government, though, insists that by not including such restrictions it is maximising the business case for buying a 3.4GHz licence, and says it will ensure that the companies who win a licence are capable of rolling out services.

"Part of the auction process is a rigorous examination of a company's business case before they get to the bidding process," explained a DTI spokesman.

The government also announced a consultation into the future of the 3.6GHz band. One proposal under consideration is that one nationwide wireless broadband licence would be made available at 3.6GHz.

This is the latest of several recent policy decisions from the government about wireless broadband -- following the deregulation of the 5GHz spectrum announced earlier this month -- as it puts wireless at the forefront of its broadband strategy.

"There's been a big groundswell of interest in wireless recently, with lots of exciting stuff going on," added the DTI spokesman.

In its latest annual report, published in November last year, the Broadband Stakeholder Group urged the government to make wireless broadband a top priority when deciding how to allocate radio spectrum.

"Paving the way for wireless is a vital part of the government's broadband strategy, as an important alternative to ADSL and cable. Making broadband as widely available as possible is key to creating a strong and competitive market, and developing and sustaining a thriving e-economy," said e-commerce minister Stephen Timms in a statement.

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