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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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3214
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  1. Paul Klemperer, 2002. "What Really Matters in Auction Design," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(1), pages 169-189, Winter.
  2. Peter Cramton & Jesse Schwartz, 2000. "Collusive Bidding in the FCC Spectrum Auctions," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1210, Econometric Society.
  3. Richard J. Gilbert & Paul Klemperer, 1999. "An Equilibrium Theory of Rationing," Microeconomics 9907005, EconWPA.
  4. 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.
  5. Bulow, Jeremy I. & Huang, Ming & Klemperer, Paul, 1996. "Toeholds and Takeovers," CEPR Discussion Papers 1486, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. Klaus Abbink & Bernd Irlenbusch & Paul Pezanis-Christou & Bettina Rockenbach & Abdolkarim Sadrieh & Reinhard Selten, 2001. "An Experimental Test of Design Alternatives for the British 3G / UMTS Auction," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse25_2001, University of Bonn, Germany.
  8. Plott, Charles R. & Salmon, Timothy C., 2004. "The simultaneous, ascending auction: dynamics of price adjustment in experiments and in the UK3G spectrum auction," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 353-383, March.
  9. Paul Klemperer & Jeremy Bulow, 1998. "Prices and the Winners Curse," Economics Series Working Papers 1998-W02, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  10. 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.
  11. R. Preston McAfee & John McMillan, 1996. "Analyzing the Airwaves Auction," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 159-175, Winter.
  12. 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.
  13. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Roger B. Myerson & Mark A. Satterthwaite, 1981. "Efficient Mechanisms for Bilateral Trading," Discussion Papers 469S, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  15. Jeremy Bulow & Paul Klemperer, 1994. "Auctions vs. Negotiations," NBER Working Papers 4608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Paul Klemperer, 2001. "How (Not) to Run Auctions: The European 3G Telecom Auctions," Economics Series Working Papers 2002-W05, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  17. Paul Klemperer & Jeremy Bulow, 1998. "The Tobacco Deal," Economics Series Working Papers 1999-W11, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  18. 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.
  19. Wruck, Karen Hopper, 1994. "Financial policy, internal control, and performance Sealed Air Corporation's leveraged special dividend," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 157-192, October.
  20. 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.
  21. Paul Milgrom, . "Putting Auction Theory to Work: The Simultaneous Ascending Auction," Working Papers 98002, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  22. ehiel, Philippe & Benny Moldovanu & Ennio Stacchetti, 1994. "How (not) to sell nuclear weapons," Discussion Paper Serie B 288, University of Bonn, Germany.
  23. 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.
  24. Donald A. Walker (ed.), 2000. "Equilibrium," Books, Edward Elgar, volume 0, number 1585.
  25. Paul Klemperer (ed.), 2000. "The Economic Theory of Auctions," Books, Edward Elgar, volume 0, number 1669.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
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