US round-up: Auction 97 bids surpass USD40bn; FCC restarts shot-clock on ‘mega-mergers’

4 Dec 2014

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Auction 97 process passed the USD40 billion mark yesterday morning (3 December), despite overall activity slowing dramatically. According to RCR Wireless, Round 46 of the auction witnessed 160 new bids that added nearly USD151 million to the total pot. Bidding in the latest round did not include any of the 20 most expensive licences, however, meaning that the J-block licence covering New York City remains the priciest concession on offer, at almost USD2.7 billion. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the FCC is auctioning off 880 licences for the larger ‘Economic Area’ franchises alongside 734 concessions for smaller ‘Cellular Market Area’ franchises. AWS-3 licences under the hammer include paired spectrum in the 1755MHz-1780MHz (uplink) and 2155MHz-2180MHz (downlink) bands, and unpaired licences in the 1695MHz-1710MHz range. The identities of the bidders themselves will be disclosed when the auction process concludes later this month.

In other news, the FCC has restarted the ‘shot clock’ on its review of the proposed USD45.2 billion ‘mega-merger’ between Comcast and its smaller rival Time Warner Cable (TWC), while also recommencing its examination of the USD48.5 billion merger between AT&T Inc and DirecTV. The FCC said that the Comcast proceeding is being restarted on day 85 of an informal 180-day review period, while the AT&T review is being restarted at day 70. The next deadline for comments in the Comcast proceeding is 23 December, while the next key date for responses in the AT&T transaction is 7 January 2015. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, both reviews were paused in October. The FCC sought to evaluate how best to handle highly confidential documents related to DirecTV’s agreements with media companies, while the regulator paused the cable merger to ensure it was satisfied with Comcast’s response to requests for additional information.