Technology-neutral European auctions opportunity for technology companies

European governments have taken an unprecedented move to offer wireless broadband licenses on a technology-neutral basis, and technology companies are taking advantage to foster the proliferation of their technology interests and for a relatively cheap price tag.

Qualcomm last week won U.K.-wide L-band spectrum for $12.9 million, but the company is being vague about its plans for the band, saying it wants to "explore emerging business models and advanced mobile technologies."    

Said Andrew Gilbert, an executive VP of Qualcomm: "Acquiring this spectrum will enable us to develop, test and explore a variety of innovative wireless services and technologies that will benefit European consumers and the wireless industry as a whole. The company has a long history of innovation and creating new technology markets."

Earlier this month, Intel Capital was among the winners of Sweden's auction of the 2.6 GHz band, acquiring 50 MHz of TDD spectrum for $26.5 million. Intel is seeking partners to build and operate a WiMAX network. The company plans to rent out the license to partners rather than sell it to grow WiMAX and the market for its Centrino WiMAX-enabled chips.

Of course, Qualcomm has a history of pushing new technologies via license ownership, with mobile TV being the latest. As it was going around evangelizing CDMA in the 1990s, the company bought licenses to begin Leap Wireless to push CDMA. Maybe it wants to prove that Ultra Mobile Broadband, the 4G path for CDMA technology, is a viable one.

It will be interesting to see who bids in the auctions going forward. Might Google make a play for a license and look for someone to run the network so it can guarantee its services on a carrier's network? Will Intel look to win more licenses, and what in the world is Qualcomm doing?--Lynnette