Many in the industry felt Britain's mobile operators over paid for their 3G licenses on 2000, writes Nick Booth.
At £5 billion each in the UK, the general consensus was that Vodafone and Orange would have some serious renegotiation to conduct. Teams of fearsome lobbyists were unleashed.
(I wonder if any of the mobile operators received any tax breaks as a result.)
As 2012 approaches, the bell is about to go for the next round, at the start of 2012. This time Ofcom will auction off two chunks of 4G frequencies.
On offer is a 72 megahertz (MHz) chunk of the soon-to-be-cleared UHF analogue TV band (near 800 MHz) and a much larger chunk in the microwave band near 2.6 GHz, a tad above the Wi-Fi band. The UHF frequencies will be good for expanding wireless internet coverage into rural areas, while the microwave addition will fuel better urban services.
Will it be headless chicken time all over again? Unlikely. All the operators are older and a lot wiser. Vodafone has obviously come a long way. Doubtless they've evolved from 3G to 4G negotiating skills.
Whatever happens, they won't be adhering to any standards.
The new 4G on offer won't be the 4G standard of the UN's International Telecommunications Union or any variant of LTE proposed by NTT Docomo or the Third Generation Project Partnership (3GPP).
Still, at 100 megabits per second, who cares? Dive in and fill your boots. We'll pay the consequences later.
We've haven't learned much have we?