FCC Releases Details of 700 MHz Auction

March 21, 2008. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released details regarding the winning bidders in Auction 73, which is also known as the 700 MHz auction.

Verizon Wireless (VW) and AT&T dominated the winning bids. AT&T's winning bids totaled over $6 Billion. VW's winning bids totaled more than $9 Billion. All bids totaled over $19 Billion. However, T-Mobile and Sprint-Nextel acquired spectrum in Auction 66 in 2006, which is also known as the AWS-1 auction.

See, FCC Public Notice [11 pages in PDF] (DA 08-595) and Attachment A [74 pages in PDF] titled "Winning Bids". See also, Attachment B [7 pages in PDF] titled "Bidder/Payment Refund", Attachment C [2 pages in PDF] titled "Withdrawal/Payment", and Attachment D [18 pages in PDF] titled "Instructions for Completing FCC Form 601 and Form 602".

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin stated in a release [PDF] that "A bidder other than a nationwide incumbent won a license in every market. As a result of the 700 MHz Auction, there is the potential for an additional wireless `third-pipe´´ in every market across the nation. Additionally, 99 bidders, other than the nationwide wireless incumbents, won 754 licenses -- representing approximately 69 percent of the 1090 licenses sold in the 700 MHz auction. The Auction therefore drew wide-ranging interest from a number of new players."

For example, wrote Martin "Frontier Wireless LLC (EchoStar), which is widely viewed as a new entrant, won 168 licenses in the E block to establish a near nationwide footprint for its services for consumers."

The E Block is 6 MHz of unpaired spectrum (722-728). It was auctioned by Economic Areas (EA) in 176 licenses. The winning bids totaled $1.27 Billion.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein stated in a release [PDF] that "It's appalling that women and minorities were virtually shut out of this monumental auction. It's an outrage that we've failed to counter the legacy of discrimination that has kept women and minorities from owning their fair share of the spectrum. Here we had an enormous opportunity to open the airwaves to a new generation that reflects the diversity of America, and instead we just made a bad situation even worse. This gives whole new meaning to ``white spaces´´ in the spectrum."

See also, story titled "FCC Closes 700 MHz Auction" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,734, March 20, 2008.

C Block. Google was not the winning bidder for any spectrum license in the just closed auction. However, its lobbying efforts were effective in causing the FCC to impose some of the restrictions that it sought, for one spectrum block, the C Block.

The C Block is 22 MHz of paired spectrum (746-757 and 776-787), auctioned by Regional Economic Area Groupings (REAGs) in 12 licenses, subject to open devices and applications requirements (ODAR).

Google's Richard Whitt stated in a release that "Google didn't pick up any spectrum licenses". But, it looks forward "to a more open wireless world. As a result of the auction, consumers whose devices use the C-block of spectrum soon will be able to use any wireless device they wish, and download to their devices any applications and content they wish. Consumers soon should begin enjoying new, Internet-like freedom to get the most out of their mobile phones and other wireless devices."

Verizon Wireless stated in a release that "We are very pleased with our auction results. Specifically, we were successful in achieving the spectrum depth we need to continue to grow our business and data revenues, to preserve our reputation as the nation's most reliable wireless network, and to continue to lead in data services and help us satisfy the next wave of services and consumer electronics devices."

It added that "The bids we won include a nationwide spectrum footprint covering 298M Pops, plus 102 licenses for individual markets covering 171M Pops."

Gigi Sohn, head of the Public Knowledge, stated in a release that "It was no surprise that Verizon paid more than $4.7 billion for a national block of spectrum in the most valuable band. From what we have seen, the company has started a process to comply with the open access parts of the FCC order that have the potential to bring many benefits to consumers through more flexibility in using their own handsets and other devices and the use of applications other than those supplied by Verizon. We look forward to hearing more details about how Verizon implements its program, and we hope the rest of the industry will adopt a similar view to giving consumers more choice."

Public Knowledge's public advocacy on this and some other issues coincides with the commercial interests of Google.

Sohn added that "We are grateful to Google for stepping up and making certain the minimum bid in the ``C´´ block was achieved, so that the open access provisions would be required to be followed."

She added that "At the same time, however, it is disappointing that new competitors and innovators won’t have access to the spectrum to give consumers the benefits of real broadband competition."