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UK GSM & UMTS News

France Telecom has purchased Orange from Vodafone. See the Orange website for details.

Bidding in the UK Government auction of 5 UMTS licences for the UK finished in April.

In the auction, the one largest licence, called licence 'A', reserved for a new operator, was for 35MHz of spectrum, then there was one for 30 MHz (licence 'B'), and three further licences of 25 MHz bandwidth each (licences 'C', 'D' and 'E'). Applications to bid in the auction were due by January 12th 2000, accompanied by a £50m deposit. Qualification for the bidding process was announced on February 14th. All thirteen applicants qualified for the auction. The bidding began on March 6th and ended on April 27th at the 150th round of bidding, when ntl Mobile withdrew from the auction.

The five winners were as follows:

Licence A: TIW UMTS (U.K.), the owner of UK Tetra operator Dolphin, who bid: £4,384,700,000 
Licence B: Vodafone, who bid: £5,964,000,000
Licence C: BT (owner of Cellnet), who bid: £4,030,100,000 
Licence D: One2One, who bid: £4,003,600,000 
Licence E: Orange, who bid: £4,095,000,000 

Eight other companies took part in the auction but later withdrew:

3G (U.K.) Ltd (a subsidiary of Irish Eircom).
Crescent Wireless Ltd (a new company formed by Global Crossing shareholders).
Epsilon Tele.com plc (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japanese finance house Nomura, which planned to lease the license to a third party if it won).
NTL Mobile Ltd (jointly owned by NTL and France Telecom). 
One.Tel Global WIreless Ltd (a subsidiary of Australian One.Tel). 
SpectrumCo Ltd (formed by the Virgin Group, Nextel, Sonera, EMI, Tesco and private equity funds).
Telefónica U.K. Ltd (a subsidiary of Spain's Telefónica). 
WorldCom Wireless (U.K.) Ltd (owned by MCI Worldcom). 

For further details, visit the official website at www.spectrumauctions.gov.uk.

The UMTS frequency allocations are as follows (to be confirmed):

1900 - 1900.3 MHz - Guard band

1900.3 - 1905.2 MHz  (4.9 MHz bandwidth) - Unmatched spectrum - licence D - One2One
1905.2  - 1910.1 MHz  (4.9 MHz bandwidth) - Unmatched spectrum - licence E - Orange
1910.1 - 1915.0 MHz  (4.9 MHz bandwidth) - Unmatched spectrum - licence C - BT (Cellnet)
1915.0 - 1919.9 MHz  (4.9 MHz bandwidth) - Unmatched spectrum - licence A - TIW

1919.9 - 1920.3 MHz - Guard band

1920.3 - 1934.9 MHz  (14.6 MHz bandwidth) - Matched spectrum (mobile transmit) - licence A - TIW
1934.9 - 1944.9 MHz  (10 MHz bandwidth) -    Matched spectrum (mobile transmit) - licence C - BT (Cellnet)
1944.9 - 1959.7 MHz  (14.8 MHz bandwidth) - Matched spectrum (mobile transmit) - licence B - Vodafone
1959.7 - 1969.7 MHz  (10 MHz bandwidth) -   Matched spectrum (mobile transmit) - licence D - One2One
1969.7 - 1979.7 MHz  (10 MHz bandwidth) -   Matched spectrum (mobile transmit) - licence E - Orange

2110 - 2110.3 MHz - Guard band

2110.3 - 2124.9 MHz  (14.6 MHz bandwidth) -  Matched spectrum (base station transmit) - licence A - TIW
2124.9 - 2134.9 MHz   (10 MHz bandwidth) -    Matched spectrum (base station transmit) - licence C - BT (Cellnet)
2134.9 - 2149.7 MHz   (14.8 MHz bandwidth) - Matched spectrum (base station transmit) - licence B - Vodafone
2149.7 - 2159.7 MHz   (10 MHz bandwidth) -    Matched spectrum (base station transmit) - licence D - One2One
2159.7 - 2169.7 MHz   (10 MHz bandwidth) -   Matched spectrum (base station transmit) - licence E - Orange

2169.7 - 2160 MHz - Guard band

Vodafone have reportedly contracted Ericsson to provide their initial UMTS network rollout.

BT Cellnet have reportedly contracted Nortel Networks to provide their initial UMTS network rollout. 
 

Vodafone acquires Mannesmann - and what next for Orange? The Vodafone bid for Mannesmann of Germany was agreed by the Mannesmann board, paving the way for the world's largest ever merger, and the creation of an European mobile 'superpower'. This deal now puts a question mark over the future ownership of Orange, which was acquired by Mannesmann in late 1999. Vodafone will have to de-merge Orange as a condition of the takeover of Mannesmann, as Vodafone cannot have an interest in more than one mobile operator in the UK. Update: as at May 28th 2000, there are rumours that France Telecom may make an offer to buy Orange from Vodafone.
 

The Q1 2000 subscription data is here (follow the link to the seperate page).
 

BT Cellnet and Vodafone both lauched WAP ("Wireless Application Protocol") services in the latter half of January 2000. These allow subscribers with special handsets to view the internet, with a text-based 'microbrowser'. Orange launched their WAP service in November 1999 but only for subscribers to access Orange-related websites, their service also now, since January, allows users to view external sites. Visit the official Vodafone, BT Cellnet and Orange websites for further details. Access is still however at the limited dial-up data rate allowed by GSM. BT Cellnet is planning to launch GPRS, which will allow higher speed, always on, internet access, over their GSM network during Summer 2000 - to corporate customers in selected areas, starting 26th June 2000. Orange plan to launch a similar product in Autumn 2000. BT Cellnet have also launched in January, Infotouch: which allows subscribers without WAP phones to receive current information (such as news, weather, sport) via the SMS function on their handset; and MMail, which enables subscribers without WAP phones to send and receive email using their handset. The convergence of the internet and the mobile phone has begun...
 

Oftel has available a new survey of GSM network performance of the four different operators in the UK. For 2 minute calls connected and completed nationally, Orange was the leader with 97.7% success rate, followed by BT Cellnet (96.5%), Vodafone (96.4%) and one2one (95.6%). These are the headline figures but for all the details, and a region-by-region breakdown, check the survey results on the Oftel website.

 

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Last updated: Friday 23 June 2000.