Eircom leads bidding for UK licence


Eircom is leading the bidding for one of the five third generation mobile licences currently being auctioned in Britain. The former State telecoms company was the top bidder yesterday at £191 million sterling (#312 million) for licence C. Licence C has 25 megahertz capacity and is one of the smaller ones on offer. It is open to all companies.

Eircom's nearest rival, Epsilon, bid £189 million. Eircom has been the lead or top bidder on 10 occasions to date, although the auction process has a long way to run. So far, there have been 26 rounds and 13 companies are vying for the licences which will allow for far faster transfer of data through mobile phones, including Internet and video conferencing.

Licence A has the largest spectrum, or capacity, at 35 megahertz and is not open to the incumbents, which are British Telecom, Orange, One2One and Vodafone. NTL Mobile, a joint venture between NTL and France Telecom, is currently leading the bidding for this licence and has bid £325 million for it. NTL bought Irish company Cablelink for £535 million (#679 million) last year and is seen as an aggressive bidder in any race it enters.

The largest bid for any licence to date has been submitted by Vodafone which has offered £541 million sterling for licence B, which has the second largest capacity. It is understood that this licence category has been most keenly contested by BT, Vodafone and Orange, although the latter two moved out of this category yesterday to bid for other licences.

Companies can switch bidding any time in the competition is being run by the radio authority.

Meanwhile, Spain has become the first European country to award third generation licences following an auction process.