back to article BT's 4G bid WON'T lead to mobile network launch

BT is among the bidders registered with Ofcom as hoping for a slice of 4G spectrum, prompting speculation of a return to mobility and a contested auction, but the truth is almost certainly a good deal less interesting. There are three new entrants on Ofcom's list of companies that have registered to bid in the 4G auction, …


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  1. Rampant Spaniel

    So qualcomm has frequencies sat unused, current operators have tdd frequencies sat unused, the mod has bucketloads of the stuff (although is going to sell some). There has to be a way to revisit and tweak the licences for the tdd stuff. AlsoI thought ofcom was touting how its pricing methods would ensure spectrum is well utilised (I guess qualcomm didn't get that memo). At least the MOD is moving.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Yet Still!

      They want to squeeze TV spectrum even further AND allow "Bonkers" so called "White Space" (effectively un-policed) to destroy reception of 100s of thousands.

      Ofcom is

      a) A regulator protecting licensed users and maximising nation effectiveness of spectrum


      b) An arm of the Treasury tasked with maximising Licence Auction revenues and no interest in protecting consumers from Operators' predatory practices (e.g. high SMS and voice charges subsidising Data and exorbitant EU roaming charges.)

      1. IHateWearingATie

        Re: Yet Still!

        Interestingly they are a bit of both (a) and (b), the very epitome of the 'squeezed middle'.

  2. envmod

    don't speak too soon

    i wouldn't discount a BT mobilr network completely. they are well aware they should have held onto O2 and definitely have desires to re-enter the field if possible. not saying it's definitely going to happen, but i wouldn't write the idea off by any means...

  3. gary27

    inside information ??

    I thought there was supposed to be very tight security surrounding this auction process ?

    If so how can you makes such an (astonishingly silly statement) - but that's astonishingly unlikely - do you have inside info (crystal ball) ?

    BT getting back into mobile would be a very smart move (in my opinion) - after all they are a telecoms and data networking company - 4g is likely to play a major role in the near future in this space.

    Mr Livingstone is not your average accountant he appears to be avery canny operator and actually has some imagination, unlike the plonkers now running Vodafone who have zero imagination and completely wasted the advantage they had from global scale left by Chris Gent (who did have imagination) For example they could have offered global calling and data plans instead of screwing their customers with outrageous roaming charges - i have huge resentment towards the incumbents because of such and would love to deal with an alternative such as bt.

    1. IHateWearingATie

      Re: inside information ??

      Must be the first time anyone has ever welcomed dealing with BT....anyway...

      You don't need inside info to make the assertions Bill Ray has - the scenario he sets out sounds likely to me given the publicly available information . I'd be surprised if BT want to get back into the mobile game through the spectrum auction, given the large capital programme of fixed line broadband upgrades they have set out for themselves for the next few years.

      I could imagine them buying a cheaper chunk to use on fixed wireless as a fixed line alternative though (in the 2.6 rather than 800 range).

      1. gary27

        Re: inside information ??

        I agree sounds odd to welcome dealing with BT (they have improved recently in my experience) - illustrates the amount of resentment i have towards vodafone having suffered so much from their extortion over the years - with no cheaper alternative available - competition failure - had to take the EU to force some concessions - just in Europe unfortunately.

        Anyway my point is, I (and many others) would not be astonished if BT got back into mobile, though I agree not highly probable.

  4. localzuk

    Fallow frequencies

    In my view, any company that goes and gets itself a pile of frequencies and then does nothing with it should have it taken off them again. Sure, they should get some time to get stuff in place, say 5 years, but after that take it back.

    There's no need to let it sit their unused.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Fallow frequencies

      Very true, I would favour that over fines because fines just end up in some quango office junket to Bali fund.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fallow frequencies

        If you get the licensing right, you can build in the use it or lose it clause into the spectrum rights. I know of a case overseas where similarly the spectrum was sold to a telco, who have sat on it for 8 years and despite commercial attempts to purchase it from them, it still lies empty and unloved by the owner, and the regulator can't go in and take it over too.

        The trick is not to give the full rights in one go, ie if the licence owner builds the network within a mandated period and meets the coverage obligations, then you give them the rest of their rights. Carrots generally work better than sticks with the case of orphaning customers.

        AC as I work for a spectrum regulator

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "ofcom was touting how its pricing methods would ensure spectrum is well utilised"

    When was that?

    Someone should tell PCCW. Whatever spectrum PCCW acquired in the UK fixed wireless access broadband auctions (and in backroom deals thereafter in the regions where they weren't the winning bidder), PCCW have just sat on it and not actually deployed any meaningful service.

    What's so hard about putting "use it or lose it" in the Ts+Cs ?

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: "ofcom was touting how its pricing methods would ensure spectrum is well utilised"

      I believe when they were bashing money out of the lifeboats or someone similar.

      I agree entirey re use it or lose it, elsewhere on the intehwebs there is a story about dish network being told to buildout their network at 10% a year or face consequences. Qualcomm have something like 40mhz at just under 1500mhz so not chickenfeed (iirc).

    2. IHateWearingATie

      Re: "ofcom was touting how its pricing methods would ensure spectrum is well utilised"

      The Ofcom mantra is based on the belief that whomever offers the most money will make the most economically efficient use of it, as they will want to maximise their profit. Spectrum owners are generally free to licence and resell their holdings, so the idea is that the highest bidder has the greatest incentive to make the spectrum holding work for it.

      Unfortunately, the theory doesn't always hold true, for example in the case of large companies using their holdings to create a monopoly and raise barriers for new entrants.

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: "ofcom was touting how its pricing methods would ensure spectrum is well utilised"

      They, and before that Netvigator and Tele2 have tried to sell the concept of wireless broadband that works at around the same speed as cable based products of that time in Reading, but nobody really seems to be interested. In the past they have advertised on local radio, had local billboard adverts, stands in shopping centres, and junk mail to all the households and businesses in the coverage area. If people won't bite in Reading, I doubt the rest of the country will be any different. Maybe people in rural areas would like to have it because they have no alternative, but range that 3.5GHz offers doesn't make rural coverage particularly viable.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zero chance of BT re-entering mobile — from the horse's gob

    Internally, BT are making no secret of the fact that they have no plans whatsoever to re-enter the mobile operator space.

    To paraphrase one senior executive I spoke to recently, "If we've learned one thing in a hundred years of doing it, it's that running your own network(s) is a mug's game". BT knows it needs a more compelling offer in the mobile space, but it will get that as it does now, by buying it in.

    This is all about extending the reach of their fixed line broadband infrastructure on the cheap. Nothing more.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virtual network

    BT are already in the mobile game. They have a virtual network on top of Vodafone.

  8. mickey mouse the fith

    What about........

    Imagine bt including femtocell tech in their homehub and bundling a mobile handset locked to their network with every one (as a replacement for the soon to die bbtalk service maybe). It could detect when the handset is connected to the homehub and offer cheaper rates and a 5 bar signal in the house, then when you leave your house it hands back to the normal network.

    If marketed right, they could make a killing and build up a large userbase pretty quickly.

    Im sure theres a flaw in this idea, but its interesting nontheless

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about........

      Um, isn't that pretty much exactly what BT Mobile *was*, and sank without trace?

      AC because I work for a large mobile phone retailer that thought this was a 'really good idea' (like digital watches, huh?) and sank development effort into it.......

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about........

      Why build a femtocell? It doesn't make any sense unless you also own a cellular network. It would make more sense to use WiFi in the home.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT can get lost, not content with owning all the phone line wires they want to monopolise the airwaves too.

    1. Cliff

      ... And thats capitalism at its core. Apple want to not just own the mp3 player market but also the phone handset one, google not just the search but also the mapping...

    2. Rampant Spaniel

      I'm not sure they want to go that far :-) I think they just did their sums and decided that 4g was the cheapest way to get broadband to some remote and\or sparsely populated regions. There is also the chance that they may offer mobile hotspots or a tablet broadband service but that would be a greater capital commit. I'm not sure they have their sights set on usurping vodafone.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      They don't own all the wires (ever heard of Virgin?) and they don't have any mobile spectrum. I don't believe that "BT owns all the airwaves" is one of the possible outcomes of this auction process.

      If BT do intend to use this spectrum to deliver broadband to rural customers - customers that no-one else seems much inclined to deliver service to - then your petulant demand that they 'get stuffed' just means people who live in rural areas have even longer to wait for high speed broadband.

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