In the UK, BT is set to battle mobile operators in a forthcoming spectrum auction. Ofcom, the telecoms watchdog, intends to auction off radio airwaves by March next year, and will generate a multimillion-pound windfall for the Government in doing so. Vodafone and O2 are also interested.

The 40 megahertz of spectrum to be auctioned off is less than half the amount in the 3G auction of 2000. Frenzied bidding for licences in that auction raised £22.5 billion for the Treasury. But the spectrum’s position, in the "sweet spot" — it sits at the 1452-1492 megahertz frequency — and its potential uses (for mobile television and wireless broadband access through technologies such as wimax) mean that licences for the new spectrum are likely to be keenly sought. High demand could trigger a big windfall for the Treasury.