RPC victorious in bid to advise Ofcom on 4G auction

RPC has won a three-way pitch to advise Ofcom on the bidding process for the auction of 4G mobile broadband bandwidth.

Competition head Stephen Smith is leading the RPC team acting for the regulator alongside fellow partner Karen Hendy, who is handling corporate matters together with associates Hui Chen Eagles and Oliver Hincks.

The telecoms regulator last month named seven bidders in the running to gain control of the spectrum in a tender process described by Ofcom as the UK’s largest-ever sale of mobile airwaves.

The 4G technology will allow web surfing on mobile phones at a speed similar to home broadband, making handheld devices more suited to activities such as streaming high-quality video, watching live TV and downloading large files.

Ofcom confirmed the bidders as Everything Everywhere, MLL Telecom, BT subsidiary Niche Spectrum Ventures, Telefónica UK and Vodafone, as well as Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa, which operates 3, and another Hong Kong group, PCCW, through its subsidiary HKT (UK) Company.

The process is divided into two separate bidding wars – one for 800 MHz and one for 2.6 GHz – with both also comprising smaller lots. The auction starts this month.

A large proportion of Ofcom’s legal work has been carried out by its in-house department working alongside the RPC team.


The mandate represents a first-time appointment from Ofcom for the City firm after it defeated two other firms in a tender process set up to select an adviser to the watchdog on its handling of the auction. The identity of other law firms bidding is unconfirmed.

Smith, a senior legal adviser in Ofcom’s in-house team between 2005 and 2006, brought RPC its relationship with the regulator after joining the firm from Mayer Brown in 2011.

The seven candidates are thought to have relied primarily on in-house legal advice.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said in a statement: “The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond. New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections.”