The Gavel about to Drop on the Auction 97 (Advanced Wireless Services 3)

The FCC's latest auction, no. 97, for Advanced Wireless Services (AWS-3) is about to conclude.

For January 9th 2015, there were only 27 new bids, bumping the overall bids by just US$ 2.08 million. Overall the US government has done well, raising US$ 44.63 billion for the Treasury. Initial assessment thought the auction might raise US$ 18 billion. Clearly the telcos do consider the 1,695 to 2,180 MHz spectrum to be extremely valuable for their future operations. Some of the more recent auctions have not raised quite so much. (More information about the auction can be found in my ABI Research Insight).

There is another auction to look forward to... the 600 MHz TV Spectrum (voluntary) Auction. It was meant to take place in mid-2015. In late October 2014, the FCC announced the postponement of the auction to early 2016.

The 600 MHz auction, like the AWS-3 Auction 97, has been part of US government legislation to reinvigorate the utilization of spectrum to meet the economic and societal needs of the country. In the case of the AWS-3 spectrum (1,695 to 2,180 MHz), it was largely being utilized by federal agencies. Those federal users were being vacated from the spectrum block but some of the proceeds of the auction will allow those federal users to use alternative spectrum and equipment, making it a win-win situation.

In the case of the 600 MHz band, TV broadcasters largely occupy the spectrum bands. The TV broadcasters are not being forced out but rather encouraged to relinquish some or all of their spectrum in exchange for the proceeds of the auction (known as a reverse auction). In the 2H-2014, adjustments had been made to the terms of the auction that ensured the TV broadcaster could never be completely ousted from all of their spectrum holdings.

Despite these compromises, the FCC announced that it would postpone the 600 MHz auction to early 2016 as it responds to a lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters that says the plan will hurt stations that choose to keep the spectrum that they license.

Stay tuned for next update...