LONDON – Would-be WiMax operators in Britain have until the middle of next month to register for the U.K.’s biggest ever release of radio spectrum, spectrum that new operators need if they are to launch services.

The regulator, Ofcom, has called for interested bidders to apply by Jan. 16, to join the auction for two bands of spectrum around 2.6GHz, originally set aside to expand 3G services. Under Ofcom’s new “technology neutral” policy, the spectrum can be used for fixed and mobile WiMax services, and its auction has been keenly awaited. The final auction will take place between June and August 2008.

BT (British Telecom) threw its hat in the ring a year ago, saying it is very interested. Meanwhile, a consortium led by Nortel and Urban WiMax has been demonstrating the abilities of WiMax, hoping to encourage other operators to bid.

The two bands, at 2010-2025MHz and 2500-2690MHz, make up a bigger chunk of spectrum than the spectrum that mobile operators bought for