Total bidding for mobile phone licences doubles to over £2bn

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The Independent Online

Bids in the auction for Britain's five new broadband mobile phone licences have risen to £2.026bn - double the tally a week earlier.

Orange showed renewed aggression, surpassing Vodafone, the mid-week leader, with a £728.3m bid last Friday for licence B, the biggest capacity licence available to incumbent bidders. Last Tuesday Vodafone had led with a £541.4m bid.

In four of the five licence auctions, the leading bidder at the end of the second week was different from the leader last Tuesday. The exception was Licence A, where SpectrumCo continues in pole position.

Its bid on Friday had risen to £537.6m from £309.9m at mid-week. Licence A, which has the biggest capacity, is reserved for a new entrant in order to boost competition.

Licences C, D and E all had new leading bidders last Friday compared with Tuesday. and Crescent were co-leaders Friday for Licence C, with each company offering £294.4m. That was nearly 50 per cent more than what Epsilon had bid for the licence on Tuesday. Meanwhile, WorldCom upped the stakes over Licence D with a bid in Friday's 41st auction round of £300m. An apparent shift in strategy saw 3GUK up the stakes for Licence E, which has the smallest capacity, with a £310m offer.

Round 42 of the auction begins this morning. Bidding is expected to finish next month.