Why BT is bidding for a slice of 4G pie

Why is BT bidding for a slice of the 4G pie?
It's 4G but not for your mobile

The Ofcom 4G auction is moving along apace, and we're now seeing the full range of bidders for the superfast spectrum – with some surprising names thrown into the mix.

We've had a word with all the new players and while their plans aren't quite forthcoming due to auction rules stating that bidders can't reveal their intentions, we've done a spot of digging to see what it means for the user.

Along with the usual suspects of Vodafone, O2, EE and 3 we've seen BT, MLL Telecom and PCCW all enter the race to get a slice of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum – so let's take a look at what they're likely to be doing with it:


Operating through its Niche Spectrum Ventures subsidiary, the telecoms provider has made it pretty clear that it's not going to be the next competitor to the incumbent mobile networks.

It has long had plans to use 4G to deliver broadband speeds on the go, and told TechRadar it hasn't changed its stance since its CEO said there were no plans to enter the mobile operator space.

It already has plans in place with EE to share its 4G spectrum to deliver broadband to rural areas, and this bid is almost certain to be part of a plan to further that goal.


This Hong Kong firm is a long standing player in the telecommunications industry through its majority share in HKT, which is making the bid in the UK.

Like BT, the firm is not planning on becoming a rival to the likes of O2 and Vodafone – instead it's looking to bring broadband connectivity using the wireless technology.

PCCW owns UK Broadband, which was set up to provide broadband to businesses and the public sector as well as manage infrastructure, but it was also one of the first to offer 4G wireless broadband in areas of the UK to both consumers and businesses through its Now! Broadband platform.

The response we received was pretty bland over the firm's plans: "It is not HKT's practice to comment on competitive situations such as spectrum auctions. We will comment as appropriate after the auctions conclude."

However, it's pretty clear that PCCW wants to make a big step forward with Now! Broadband, giving even those in rural areas more TV and internet services where fixed line can't penetrate.

MLL Telecom

You won't have heard of MLL Telecom, a Buckinghamshire-based firm that's over 20 years old, but they're the guys helping get your mobile signal to you.

It works for the likes of BT and Vodafone to help manage and build the infrastructure to send all those tiny bytes of data you use to tell the world what you're having for breakfast or, indeed, what you might be eating in the future.

"Through our experience and expertise within the industry we recognise that the demands on mobile networks are constantly changing and will continue to do so over the next few years; for this reason we have decided to place our bid in the 4G auction to complement our existing spectrum allocation," said Karl Edwards, CCO of MLL Telecom in a statement sent to TechRadar.

"This move will allow us to further support our customers within the mobile industry, enabling us to provide improved backhaul capabilities through small cells as well as reducing the current [operating expense] costs incurred by our customers."

In short: you won't be able to buy a service from MLL, but it will use any spectrum it wins to make a network you CAN buy more efficient. You can forget all about it now.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.