LONDON -- The U.K. market was firm ahead of the long weekend, with telecom issues making the most of the running following the conclusion Thursday of bidding for the third-generation mobile phone licenses. Stocks were also helped by weaker-than-expected GDP numbers, which eases the pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

The

FTSE 100

rose smartly early on to stand 107.8 points higher at 6287.10 by midmorning, and the

Techmark

, additionally boosted by the overnight gain in the

Nasdaq

, rose 83.2 points to 3594.1.

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Report

was 12p higher to 291 (US$4.57), with dealers citing three reasons for the strength of the shares. First, there is relief that the license auction is over and Vodafone was victorious in its battle for the sought-after "B" license. Second, U.S. selling of Vodafone has dried up following the flotation of

AT&T Wireless

. And third, dealers reckon there's going to be a major, and expensive, battle for control of

Orange

, which Vodafone has to sell following its takeover of

Mannesmann

.

British Telecom

(BTY)

, having won the "C" license, gained 24 to

11.56. Sentiment was also helped by news of its U.S. Yellow Book subsidiary's expansion move.

Cable & Wireless HKT

(HKT)

added 19p to

10.40 amid continued speculation that

Singapore Telecom

, possibly with the involvement of

News Corporation

(NWS) - Get Report

, may raise its bid for C&W HKT and leave rival bidder

Pacific Century Cyberworks

floundering. There was also further support for

Marconi

(MCONY)

, which moved up 35p to 805, and

Colt Telecom

(COLT)

gained 144p to

26.75.

Among the techs,

Baltimore Technologies

(BALT)

led the way with a gain of 474p to

61.00.

Psion

was a fairly close second, 243p higher to

37.57.

BATM Advanced Communications

rose 187p to

44.25 and

Staffware

jumped 200p to

20.87 after reporting first-quarter sales some 48% higher at

7.1 million.

London Bridge Software

advanced 125p to

31.25 after announcing new agreements with

Sema

and

NTL

(NTLI)

.

Europe's other major bourses also were stronger going into the holiday weekend. The

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was up 133.84 to 7355.58, and the

CAC 40

in Paris was up 124.16 to 6372.02.

Tech and telecom stocks were the biggest gainers.

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

, which fell 6.1% on Thursday, was up 2.20 euros to 71.95 (US$66.20),

Siemens

(SMAWY)

was up 8.16 euros to 159.76 and

Epcos

(symbol)

was up 2.55 to 154.04.

France Telecom

(FTE)

was up 3.00 euros to 165.00 and

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Report

was up 0.45 euro to 24.60.