Dish Network won sizable amounts of spectrum in the government’s 700-Megahertz wireless spectrum auction – and Cox Communications emerged as the largest winning cable entity – but the biggest slices went to Verizon Wireless and AT&T, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday.
The auction, which closed March 18, generated $19.592 billion in total bids. A portion of the funds will be allocated to the Commerce Department’s digital-to-analog converter box program.
“Even in a difficult economic climate, revenues raised in this auction exceeded congressional estimates of $10.182 billion by approximately 187%– nearly twice the amount Congress had anticipated would be raised to support public safety initiatives, the digital television transition and $7 billion in budget deficit reduction,” FCC chairman Kevin Martin said, in a statement.
However, preliminary FCC data regarding winning bidders indicated that, based on self-reporting, women-owned bidders failed to win any licenses and minority-owned bidders won less 1% of licenses.
In a prepared statement, FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said: “It’s appalling that women and minorities were virtually shut out of this monumental auction… 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.”
The spectrum in the 700-MHz band is being made available as a result of the government’s mandate that over-the-air broadcasters cease their analog over-the-air signals by Feb. 17, 2009.
Dish won 168 licenses in the E block, spectrum covering most of the United States, for a total of $711 million, according to the FCC’s Web site. The company itself acknowledged the auction win in a statement Friday. There had earlier been confusion about whether the winning bids were from Dish or from EchoStar, the hardware part of the business that split off from Dish Network.
Cox, which was bidding as Cox Wireless, will pay $304.6 million for 22 licenses, in the A and B blocks, in California, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Cox’s largest single winning bid was $84.1 million for an A-block license in San Diego.
Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital secured two A Block licenses, in the Pacific Northwest, for $112 million. Analyst firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. predicted that spectrum will overlap with his cable holdings.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T—the two largest wireless carriers in the U.S.—accounted for 83% of the total bid in the auction.
Verizon Wireless won the regional licenses in the C block necessary for a nationwide footprint, paying in total $9.63 billion. AT&T will fork over $6.64 billion for 227 licenses, which are all in the B block.
Qualcomm won a total of nine licenses for a total of $1.03 billion, and was the initial – and only – bidder for the D block, with a $472 million bid.
The FCC Thursday issued an order de-linking the D block from the other blocks in the auction. The D Block did not meet its $1.3 billion reserve price established in advance of the auction.
The agency said it “is committed to making this spectrum available for use quickly after the DTV transition on February 17, 2009.” The FCC said it will not re-offer the D block immediately in Auction 76 but will consider its options for how to license this spectrum in the future.”
All told, there were 99 winning bidders for 754 spectrum licenses. The auction had a total of 261 rounds.
Other notable 700-MHz winners and losers:
- Google ended up with no winning bids in the auction. The Internet search giant had pressed the FCC to adopt a rule requiring the winning bidder of the C block to provide “open access” to third-party applications and devices, if a minimum bid price of $4.6 billion was met.
- BendBroadband won a license in the B block in Oregon for $6.7 million.
- Neither Leap Wireless nor Alltel Wireless won any licenses.