Tuesday, 28 March 2017

FCC completes incentive auction, raises $19.6bn

By Nick Wood, Total Telecom
Monday 13 February 17

600-MHz sell-off nets far less than first anticipated.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has completed its long-running 600-MHz incentive auction, raising $19.63 billion (€18.49 billion). Television broadcasters that relinquished their 600-MHz frequencies during the reverse stage of the auction will collectively receive $10…

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has completed its long-running 600-MHz incentive auction, raising $19.63 billion (€18.49 billion).

Television broadcasters that relinquished their 600-MHz frequencies during the reverse stage of the auction will collectively receive $10.05 billion. The net proceeds will be used to fund the rollout of a public safety network. Any funds left over will go to the treasury.

Winners in the forward auction will soon have a chance to participate in the assignment phase, where they can bid for specific frequency blocks.

"Congratulations to the winners in both the reverse and forward auctions. The participation of these broadcasters and wireless carriers will enable the Commission to release 84 megahertz of spectrum into the broadband marketplace. These low-band airwaves will improve wireless coverage across the country and will play a particularly important role in deploying mobile broadband services in rural areas," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement late last week.

The incentive auction kicked off in March 2016 with the reverse auction, during which broadcasters set the price at which they would sell their 600-MHz holdings.

The initial price set was $86.4 billion for 126 MHz, which was ambitious to say the least. Further rounds saw a reduction in the price and subsequently the amount of spectrum that would go under the hammer in the forward auction. The forward auction began in mid-August.

62 companies qualified to take part, including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile US. Cable giant Comcast and satellite TV provider Dish Network also took part. However, the country's fourth-largest telco by subscribers, Sprint opted not to participate.

Now the auction has concluded, the hard work of reassigning new airwaves to TV broadcasters so their 600-MHz spectrum can be allocated to successful bidders begins.

"We must ensure uninterrupted access to over-the-air television and a timely clearing of the new wireless band," Pai said.

"We will devote a great deal of attention to those tasks over the coming months, and it will be a top priority of mine as chairman of this agency," he said.

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