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We report on temperature-dependent Hall-effect measurements and secondary ion mass spectroscopy on unintentionally doped, n-type conducting GaN epitaxial films. Over a wide range of free carrier concentrations we find a good correlation between the Hall measurements and the atomic oxygen concentration. We observe an increase of the oxygen concentration close to the interface between the film and the sapphire substrate, which is typical for the growth technique used (synthesis from galliumtrichloride and ammonia). It produces a degenerate n-type layer of ≈1.5 μm thickness and results in a temperature-independent mobility and Hall concentration at low temperatures (≪50 K). The gradient in free carrier concentration can also be seen in spatially resolved Raman and cathodoluminescence experiments. Based on the temperature dependence of the Hall-effect, Fourier transform infrared absorption experiments, and photoluminescence we come to the conclusion that oxygen produces a shallow donor level with a binding energy comparable to the shallow Si donor. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.