Remote Bidding - UACG(99)16
The Agency has chosen encrypted fax as the electronic bidding mechanism for the forthcoming auction of Third Generation mobile spectrum. This decision follows discussion at the March UACG meeting and consideration of responses to UACG(99)9 along with specialist IT advice. This paper reviews the rationale for using a secure fax based system and outlines next steps.
2. Comments should be received by noon on Tuesday 8 June 1999 by:
Please note that the RA returns to its headquarters in Docklands with effect from 1 June. Telephone, fax and e-mail contact details will be unchanged.
Responses to UACG(99)9
3. Comments were invited on the remote bidding options of fax, internet email and private email, as well as on password arrangements and the use of commercially available encryption. We were grateful for the nine responses to the paper. The main points made were as follows:
- Mail via the Internet was generally discounted as unreliable and unable to guarantee timely responses.
-There was support for strong commercially available encryption technology equally applicable to the fax or email options.
-Ample time was requested to test the bidding system adequately and rehearse procedures.
-Respondents supported proposals to put in place back up procedures to supplement the electronic process.
As a whole the responses did not point clearly towards either the fax or email option, with the main emphasis resting upon achieving a reliable system which guarantees the integrity of transmitted information.
Why Secure Fax?
4, Both secure private email and secure fax represented viable options for remote bidding. Having examined the implications of both, the main reasons for choosing a secure fax system were simplicity and a reduction of technical risks in delivering the requirements of the auction process. As fax is a synchronous transmission method, simple observation can identify the status of any transmission, and to a lesser extent, of the line and such procedures offer a positive indication of delivery or technical problems.
5. Secure fax systems are in use in both governmental and commercial environments such as the finance industry involving transfers of large sums of money. The relatively (to other spectrum auctions) simple auction process envisaged for 3G licenses as a consequence of auctioning only five licences does not require a more complicated and possibly over engineered solution (with associated technical risks).
6. There are a range of systems readily available from a number of manufacturers, typically with some form of access control and offering a high level of encryption (up to 56-bit subject to legal restrictions). Some devices may be configured to accept only calls from and/or transmit to certain other machines, and will confirm the identity of the other party as part of the protocol negotiation. We will additionally set up procedures for the use of numbered passwords specific to each bidder. It is estimated that typical transmission of a bidding schedule will take between 100 and 200 seconds.
7. The communication link will be established via a dial up (PSTN) line. Should any bidder wish to communicate via a leased line, the arrangements and cost for this will be their responsibility and arrangements should be made in good time. We will make arrangements to accommodate a leased line at the auctioneers location provided time is available, thus early notice from potential bidders who may wish to use a leased line is requested.
8. We intend to commission further investigation of encrypted fax systems in order to produce a shortlist of acceptable equipment from which potential bidders may choose. We will then ensure that compatible technology is installed at the auction location to receive bids from and transmit information to each bidder and that this connection is thoroughly tested. It is our intention to have a number of duplicate machines on standby in case of technical failure.
9. Bidding procedures are outlined in the Draft Wireless Telegraphy (Third Generation) Licences Notice (UACG(99)13 to be circulated shortly). The further mechanics of the process will be outlined in greater detail in due course.
10. As we are seeking to offer a choice from a shortlist of secure fax systems, it will be necessary for potential bidders to indicate which system they will use, before notification that they are qualified bidders. This ensures adequate time for us to acquire and configure the corresponding equipment and maximises the time available to trial systems before the auction commences. Although there has been strong support for encryption technology, were a bidder to prefer the use of clear fax, it is propose that this should also be permissible.
Address for Service
11. UACG(99)9 proposed that bidders be required to provide an address for service in the City of London or London Docklands areas such that in the event of a breakdown in telecommunications services, papers may be delivered to a named contact at that address. Some reservations were expressed to this in responses to the paper. However, we believe that it would be unfair for those bidders who are content to make these arrangements to suffer the delays inherent in delivering documents further afield to and awaiting responses from bidders who have not made such arrangements. This remains, therefore, a requirement for all of participation in the auction.
12. This paper informs industry of our chosen bidding mechanism. We welcome any comments or suggestions relating to this choice. Further details concerning bidding procedures, bidding schedules, acceptable encrypted systems and password arrangements will follow in due course.
Radiocommunications Agency Auction Team
7 May 1999