After more than two months and 341 rounds of bidding, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Auction 97 proceedings concluded yesterday (29 January), earning the watchdog USD44.89 billion in total potential winning bids. According to RCR Wireless just three of the 1,614 licences that were on sale went unsold. The identities of the bidders are expected to be revealed next month when the FCC establishes a deadline for down-payments.
The FCC auctioned off 880 licences for the larger ‘Economic Area’ franchises alongside 734 concessions for smaller ‘Cellular Market Area’ franchises. AWS-3 licences that went under the hammer included paired spectrum in the 1755MHz-1780MHz (uplink) and 2155MHz-2180MHz (downlink) bands, and unpaired licences in the 1695MHz-1710MHz range.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler commented: ‘Today we closed bidding Auction 97 – by far the highest-earning spectrum auction the United States has ever seen. But it was much more than that. This auction also marked a new era in spectrum policy, where a collaborative and unprecedented effort resulted in new commercial access to federal spectrum bands. A bipartisan group of leaders in Congress, federal agencies – especially National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Department of Defence (DoD) – the White House, industry, and the team at the FCC all came together to help meet the nation’s demand for wireless broadband.’
Despite the modest reserve price of just USD10 billion, TeleGeography notes that Auction 97 comfortably eclipsed previous FCC frequency auctions. Auction 73, which included 700MHz licences and took place in 2008, lasted 261 rounds and generated USD19.12 billion in total bids; while Auction 66, which included 2100MHz/1700MHz AWS-1 concessions, was staged in July 2006, generating USD13.88 billion after 161 rounds of bidding.