Britain is poised to raise the curtain on a new series of wireless spectrum auctions, although few expect anything like the bidding frenzy that cost mobile phone companies over pounds 22 billion in 2000.
British telecoms and media regulator Ofcom has called for interested bidders to put in their applications to buy spectrum in the 2010-2025 Megahertz and 2500-2690 MHz bands - formerly called the "3G extension band" - by January 16.
Mobile phone operators, who were forced to concede they had vastly overpaid seven years ago as their shares plunged, triggering colossal asset writedowns and record losses, declined to be drawn on which auctions they were most interested in.
But the world has changed since Britain pioneered auctions of speedy, third-generation (3G) mobile licences across Europe that raised more than 100 billion euros and helped fuel a precipitous drop in telecoms shares.
Unlike seven years ago, there are no regulatory restrictions on trading the spectrum or on which services can be run over what will be the UK's largest ever release of spectrum, which is due to be auctioned off between June and August.
The sale is part of Ofcom's plans to reallocate more than 400 MHz of prime spectrum - which analysts say could radically alter both the diversity of telecoms platforms in Britain and the array of customer services over the next few decades.
Broker Nomura says the most significant chunk of spectrum to become available, however, will be that arising from the so-called Digital Dividend Review (DDR) in 2009 - although the bulk of that will only be available when analogue television transmissions cease in 2012.
The DDR spectrum is in the 550-630 MHz and the 806-854 MHz band, which is ideal for services such as wireless broadband, mobile television, fixed television or local TV stations. …