The FCC has confirmed the winning bidders [pdf link] in their recently closed 700MHz spectrum auction, with Verizon Wireless taking the majority of the coveted Block C while AT&T picked up 227 licences from Block B. The auction, which raised $19.592bn in total, concerns parts of the wireless spectrum that will be freed up once analogue TV is turned off and broadcasters switch to digital, starting in 2009. Verizon spent $4.75bn on Block C and a total of $9.63bn in the auction overall; AT&T is believed to have spent around $6.64bn in all. Google, who were strong proponents for the “open access” provisos the FCC later built into the Block C contract, apparently made a “serious bid” according to the FCC, but in the end won none of the licences.
“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” FCC statement
Verizon will now control all of Block C with the exception of Puerto Rico, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico; it also won 25 licences in Block A. AT&T won 12MHz of spectrum in Block B, giving it coverage in over 700 cellular areas. Frontier Wireless, who are partners to satellite TV service EchoStar, walk away with much of the low-bandwidth Block E, while licences for it – and Block A – were also taken by Qualcomm in a move many are seeing as potential extension for their MediaFLO mobile TV system.
Block D, which carried stringent public service conditions, failed to meet its reserve price of $1.3bn and will be re-auctioned, although the FCC are yet to announce a schedule for this.