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The Biggest Auction Ever: The Sale of the British 3G Telecom Licences

  • Binmore, Kenneth
  • Klemperer, Paul

This paper reviews the part played by economists in organizing the British third-generation mobile-phone licence auction that concluded on 27 April 2000. It raised £22½ billion ($34 billion or 2½ % of GNP) and was widely described at the time as the biggest auction ever. We discuss the merits of auctions versus ‘beauty contests’, the aims of the auction, the problems we faced, the auction designs we considered, and the mistakes that were made.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3214.

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Date of creation: Feb 2002
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3214
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  1. Gilbert, Richard & Klemperer, Paul, 1993. "An Equilibrium Theory of Rationing," CEPR Discussion Papers 805, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Klemperer, Paul, 1998. "Auctions with almost common values: The 'Wallet Game' and its applications," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 757-769, May.
  3. Jeremy Bulow & Paul Klemperer, 2002. "Prices and the Winner's Curse," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(1), pages 1-21, Spring.
  4. Paul Klemperer, 2001. "How (Not) to Run Auctions: the European 3G Telecom Auctions," Economics Papers 2002-W5, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford, revised 01 Nov 2001.
  5. Peter Cramton & Jesse Schwartz, 2000. "Collusive Bidding: Lessons from the FCC Spectrum Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 00jre, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 09 Mar 1999.
  6. ehiel, Philippe & Benny Moldovanu & Ennio Stacchetti, 1994. "How (not) to sell nuclear weapons," Discussion Paper Serie B 288, University of Bonn, Germany.
  7. Plott, Charles R. & Salmon, Timothy, 2002. "The Simultaneous, Ascending Auction: Dynamics of Price Adjustment in Experiments and in the U.K. 3G Spectrum Auction," Working Papers 1155, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  8. Bulow, Jeremy I. & Huang, Ming & Klemperer, Paul, 1996. "Toeholds and Takeovers," CEPR Discussion Papers 1486, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Paul Milgrom, . "Putting Auction Theory to Work: The Simultaneous Ascending Auction," Working Papers 98002, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  10. Paul Milgrom & Robert J. Weber, 1981. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Discussion Papers 447R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  11. Martin Feldstein, 1999. "Tax Avoidance And The Deadweight Loss Of The Income Tax," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 674-680, November.
  12. Jeremy Bulow & Paul Klemperer, 1994. "Auctions vs. Negotiations," NBER Working Papers 4608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Paul Klemperer (ed.), 2000. "The Economic Theory of Auctions," Books, Edward Elgar, volume 0, number 1669, December.
  14. Paul Klemperer, 2002. "What Really Matters in Auction Design," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(1), pages 169-189, Winter.
  15. Bulow, Jeremy I. & Klemperer, Paul, 1999. "The Tobacco Deal," CEPR Discussion Papers 2125, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Myerson, Roger B. & Satterthwaite, Mark A., 1983. "Efficient mechanisms for bilateral trading," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 265-281, April.
  17. Donald A. Walker (ed.), 2000. "Equilibrium," Books, Edward Elgar, volume 0, number 1585, December.
  18. Abbink, Klaus & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Pezanis-Christou, Paul & Rockenbach, Bettina & Sadrieh, Abdolkarim & Selten, Reinhard, 2005. "An experimental test of design alternatives for the British 3G/UMTS auction," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 505-530, February.
  19. Cramton Peter & Schwartz Jesse A, 2002. "Collusive Bidding in the FCC Spectrum Auctions," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-20, December.
  20. Marco Pagnozzi, 2003. "Sorry Winners," CSEF Working Papers 108, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 09 May 2007.
  21. Börgers, Tilman & Dustmann, Christian, 2001. "Strange Bids: Bidding Behaviour in the United Kingdom's Third Generation Spectrum Auction," CEPR Discussion Papers 3072, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  22. John Cable & Andrew Henley & Kevin Holland, 2002. "Pot of gold or winner's curse? An event study of the auctions of 3G mobile telephone licences in the UK," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 23(4), pages 447-462, December.
  23. Sandro Brusco & Giuseppe Lopomo, 1999. "Collusion via Signalling in Open Ascending Auctions with Multiple Objects and Complementarities," Working Papers 99-05, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  24. Richard Engelbrecht-Wiggans & Charles M. Kahn, 2005. "Low-Revenue Equilibria in Simultaneous Ascending-Bid Auctions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(3), pages 508-518, March.
  25. Ballard, Charles L & Shoven, John B & Whalley, John, 1985. "General Equilibrium Computations of the Marginal Welfare Costs of Taxes in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-38, March.
  26. R. Preston McAfee & John McMillan, 1996. "Analyzing the Airwaves Auction," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 159-175, Winter.
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