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Prime spectrum set to go mobile

07 июня 2008

Mobile telephone companies will almost certainly reap the rewards from the sale of the “prime rib” of broadcasting spectrum, analysts said on Friday, as the regulator announced details of how it would conduct the auction.

About 128Mhz of spectrum in the so-called sweet spot around 700Mhz will become available as terrestrial television signals switch from analogue to digital by 2012.

Ofcom suggested on Friday it could be used for high-speed mobile broadband and mobile television – both part of telecoms companies’ long-term plans – and for more digital television channels.

But with the auction in 2009 expected to raise between £2bn and £4bn for the Treasury, it is highly unlikely that television companies would be able to afford worthwhile slices.

Some analysts believe all the bandwidth will go to existing mobile companies. The 700Mhz area is desirable for them because it is where the combination of the distance a signal will travel and the amount of data it can carry is at an optimum. It is therefore ideal for use for 4G, the next stage in the evolution of mobile telephones.

Ofcom said it was also about to announce which investment bank had won the tender process to seek buyers for the spectrum.

“Broadcasters really need to have spectrum in chunks, or multiplexes, and the prices this is likely to command from the mobile operators looking to secure their future options will price TV out of the market, I think,” said Will Harris of Enders Analysis.

Predicting auctions is a fool’s errand but in the US last March a similar sale of 52Mhz in the 700Mhz range raised $19.1bn (£9.8bn). Taking into account the size of the market, this suggests a figure of £4.4bn for the 128Mhz on offer in the UK.

Mr Harris’s colleague James Barford said: “It’s a simplistic calculation, but it’s one the mobile companies themselves will be doing. I don’t think it will raise quite that much, but auction processes are very unpredictable. This will not raise the same amount of money as the £20bn that the 3G auction raised in 2000 because there was a lot of bidding of questionable rationality then.”

Источник: Financial Times

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