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Google 'not interested' in bidding for UK spectrum

Just having a chat with Ofcom

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Exclusive The man behind Google's $4.6bn plan to become a national wireless broadband provider in the US has ruled out a similar move in the UK when spectrum is auctioned off over the next two years.

Chris Sacca, the search and advertising giant's "head of special intiatives", will meet regulators at Ofcom today to discuss UK spectrum, but told the Reg yesterday that the firm "isn't interested in becoming the world's carrier".

He said: "We're not preparing a bid [in the UK] and we're not looking for partners," adding that his talks with Ofcom today will merely be aimed at establishing the facts around UK wireless regulations.

Ofcom is consulting on evicting O2 and Vodafone from the 900MHz band in 2009. A national newspaper report in September suggested that Google will bid to take it over. At the time it refused to comment.

However, Sacca told us after he spoke at Oxford University that the UK access market is not hamstrung by the lack of competition that has stifled wireless technologies Stateside, so Google doesn't feel any need to intervene.

In the US he instigated a Capitol Hill campaign by Google to counter lobbying moves by cell phone carriers. They wanted to ensure that the FCC slapped restrictions on who could buy the former analogue TV 700MHz band and what it can be used for when it comes up for auction in January.

Google and its allies were semi-victorious. It now looks near-certain to bid in the name of "more choices in an open and competitive wireless world", according to a statement last week.

The firm's Linux-based Android mobile applications platform - which ahead of its low-key launch was taken by more excitable tech watchers as evidence of a full-scale Google assault on the wireless industry - is also designed to fire a more open mobile development scene.

Next year, Ofcom also wants to offload the so-called "digital dividend" airwaves vacated by the UK's analogue TV switch-off in a techology-neutral auction - unlike the multibillion pound dotcom-era sale, which was restricted to 3G mobile operators. ®

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