Bids Reach $3.7B in First Two Days of 700-MHz Auction


After the first two days of the Federal Communications Commission’s auction of licenses in the 700-Megahertz band, the 214 registered bidders had anted up $3.7 billion.

But it’s not certain who, exactly, bid in the first four rounds, as the FCC is keeping the identities of the bidders secret until the end of the auction, which could last several weeks or even months. The bidding is scheduled to resume Jan. 28 at 10 a.m.

Entities registered to participate include AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Google, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems, Qualcomm, EchoStar and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, which is the majority owner of Charter Communications.

The 700-MHz spectrum is being returned by local TV broadcasters that are set to shut off their analog transmissions in February 2009.

The nationwide license for the biggest chunk of spectrum, known as the C block, drew an offer of $1.79 billion in the fourth round.

JRPG analyst Jamie Townsend, in a research note Thursday, said that Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Google are likely the only bidders for the C block. He speculated that Google had made the first bid for the C block for $1.24 billion in the opening round. The Internet giant lobbied for and won a condition from the FCC that requires the winner of that license to make its network “open” to any devices and applications if the price tops $4.6 billion.

“It remains way too early in the process to conclude much about where actual winning prices will be,” Townsend wrote. But, he added, the eventual total proceeds from the auction will likely be “at the lower end” of the $10 billion to $15 billion range JRPG previously forecast.