4G spectrum auctions – bidders include BT

Trefor DaviesOfcom has announced the bidders in the 4G spectrum auctions. There are seven in total. Thought about bidding myself but I didn’t really have a firm plan of what to do with it if we managed to secure the spectrum.

The bidders include all the ones you would have expected – EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 in their various official corporate guises. Also PCCW who already offer a limited 4G fixed line replacement service in the UK. Then we have a company called MLL Telecom which has existing mobile spectrum licenses and provides managed networks  in the UK.

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited, otherwise known as BT. This business was only registered in June of this year and has already had two name changes: initially BT Facilities Services Limited (until sept 2012) and then BT Ninety-Two Limited (changed only last month).

I don’t have any inside track here – BT is being very tight lipped regarding their plans – but if I were a betting man I’d say this was another step on the road to BT becoming a fully fledged mobile network operator, again.

At some stage after divesting itself of Cellnet BT realised it needed to be in mobile and so is now an MVNO, partnering with Vodafone.  Buying 4G spectrum would be a natural step forward here.

Modern 4G kit is very flexible and can carry multiple operators networks – both in the modem and in VLANs applied to the various backhaul circuits. BT, with its own spectrum would be able to easily launch 4G services piggy backing on someone else’s existing infrastructure and the company has good relationships with both Voda (through the MVNO) and EE from its work in the Cornwall superfast broadband project.  Indeed the company won an award earlier this year for demonstrating the solution that could be used in a country wide 4G rollout.

It would be a big move for BT, upping its mobile ante, especially as the incumbent mobile operators are fighting a headwind of revenue erosion, but converged networks are the way forward and for a company of BT’s size it has to have a mobile play.

That’s my bet and I’m sticking with it. We will find out soon enough.

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  1. PhilT

    I’ll place my bet that it’s for fixed wireless broadband access – BDUK project infill in long line areas.

  2. The fishing Gardener

    It could be done with all sorts of future creative strategic moves in mind:……

    BT by O2 to create a business that matches up to the new Voda ICT combo, or, longer term, BT and O2 bid separately, and combine downstream a la EE has done to make a super operator.

    Good luck to the relative minnows is what I say!.

    What makes me laugh is why don’t BT apply under a company name such as “BT 4G Holdings Limited”, or something such like…..

    Why mascaraed as a business that sounds like the in-house cleaning firm!

    TFG

  3. I have to deal with BT professionally and it is a total nightmare. Unprofessional and inept are two kind words I could use but on a personal level I would rather cut my nuts off with a blunt knife and feed them to rabid rats than give them any business.

    Locally we have some fast broadband initiatives for rural areas and BT never appeared until someone mentioned the magic word “subsidies.”

    Leave the mobile business to the companies who have expertise in this area.

  4. nick

    BT’s relationship with Vodafone is likely to be sour now, Vodafone is BT’s largest rival for fixed services as they have recently taken over Cable and Wireless Worldwide. More interestingly, because of Vodafone taking over Cable and Wireless Worldwide, Telefonica O2 has decided to end its network backhaul with Cable and Wireless and switch to BT.

    O2 also switched to a single core network for both its fixed and mobile services and guess what, that’s owned by BT as well.

    So it seems BT have there feet under the table when it comes to O2. So as a wholesale provider BT is still raking in the revenue from its former mobile business.

    It was very clever of Vodafone trying to lure O2 and BT as customers although they have both caught onto it.

    It is likely BT will dump Vodafone in the UK,Spain ,italy and Holland in favour of Telefonicas O2 and Movistar networks to use for there business MVNO.

    BT’s relationship with EE is not at all good, after recent advertising campaigns competing with EE home broadband and EE’s backhaul network with Virgin Media, it is unlikely BT will continue to work with EE, BT has previously worked with T-Mobile and was not a success.

    BT will not launch a national network not while it has a good position in selling wholesale services to the mobile networks. Unless it wants to take over O2 from debt ridden Telefonica?

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