3G auction ends with NTL departure

Five lucky, lucky winners

NTL Mobile, the joint venture between NTL and France Telecom, has pulled out of the government's auction for a UMTS telecoms licence. The companies said they would continue their partnership in the UK market, but would look at fresh convergent multimedia wireless services in the UK. The winners of the mobile licences are therefore Montreal-based newcomer TIW UMTS (UK) Ltd, and the four existing wireless operators One-2-One, Orange, Vodafone AirTouch and BT. TIW is paying £4.4 billion for the privilege of joining the next generation of mobile licence owners, with Vodafone forking out £5.9 billion, Orange £4.1 billion, and BT 3G - a unit of BT - and One2One each paying £4 billion. "We entered the auction with a robust business plan for offering fixed and mobile services. We still believe in that plan, but now believe that other strategies for achieving it offer higher and better rates of return for our stakeholders. We wish the winners good luck in the future," said Barclay Knapp, NTL CEO and president. ®

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