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Google Clams Up On UK Spectrum Auction, Cites US Regs

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is keeping quiet on whether it has plans to bid for UK airwaves to be auctioned after analogue TV is switched off. Ofcom yesterday said it would auction the so-called “digital dividend” toward the end of next year and early 2009, paving the way for new mobile media offerings. Google is already set to bid an expected $4.6 billion in the US’ similar Auction 73 for the right to run wireless services and Ofcom CEO Ed Richards yesterday said he would be “extremely interested” to learn Google’s UK intentions (via Guardian).

But Google isn’t speaking about its British plans, and it has a humdinger of an explanation – America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has forbidden it. Since it’s bidding in the US auction, Google has to stick to the letter of that regulator’s “anti-collusion” rules, which prohibit bidders from discussing their strategies, a spokesperson said. The rules came in to play on December 3, when the FCC’s deadline passed for bidders to enter the fray, disallowing strategic talk between bidders. Rather curiously, it would suggest any plans Google may have in the UK could be part of the same strategy being followed in the US – and, until the auction’s over, Google said, it’s unable to comment about its spectrum plans anywhere in the world. The FCC auction starts on January 24, 2008, and the end date is still to be decided. So, thanks to the American regulator, it’s not yet clear when Google might make its UK intentions clear to the UK regulator.