"The longest and most valuable auction of state assets ended on Thursday, leaving the Treasury 22.47bn richer and five companies with the right to offer advanced mobile phone services throughout the UK.
"The auction of radio spectrum to support next (or third) generation mobile phone services, which will include such features as mobile internet and full motion video, has raised more than seven times the amount expected. There has been intense speculation about how the windfall might be used.
"The Treasury insisted the money would not be fed into public spending or used to cut taxes. In the public accounts, it would be treated as a revenue increase of about 1bn a year over the 21-year life of the licences.
"The auction ran for more than seven weeks, ending after 150 bidding rounds when NTL Mobile, a joint venture between NTL of the US and France Telecom, withdrew, citing cost as its principal reason.
"The process has been keenly watched by other countries preparing to allocate third generation licences. The German regulator is expected to sell six licences in July in an auction expected to be at least as competitive as the UK's.
"... Winner of the largest licence, open only to new entrants, was TIW, a Canadian company in which Hutchison Whampoa, the Hong Kong trading group, has a small stake. It paid 4.38bn. Hutchison said it was forming a joint venture with TIW to offer next generation services on TIW's network.
"The next largest licence, open to any bidder, went to Vodafone AirTouch, the world's largest mobile phone group, which paid 5.96bn. British Telecommunications, One-2-One and Orange all paid a little more than 4bn each for the three remaining licences.