AWS-3 Auction Ends Day at $44.7 Billion

The FCC's AWS-3 auction just doesn't know when to quit. The FCC has been changing the bidding rules to shorten the rounds and take other steps to speed its close now that it is by far the biggest auction take in FCC history and has blown by its reserve and pre-auction estimates by a factor of three.

But the bids continue to trickle in. At press time following the last round of the day, the total was $44,705,030,600 on $554,900 (5 new bids) in round 241. There had been some brief excitement of sorts earlier in the day when a bid on a license on the East Coast was withdrawn and the round total was actually in the red. But then there was a new bid on the withheld license and the next round total jumped by over $103 million.

The auction won't end until there are no new bids or waivers in a round.

In the AWS-3 auction, 65 MHz of spectrum is up for bid, part of a congressional—and White House—mandate to free up wireless spectrum for mobile broadband. There were 70 bidders at the outset, with AT&T and Verizon believed to have bid on the vast majority—one analyst estimates 80% combined—of the 1,614 licenses up for auction.

It will be the largest amount of spectrum auctioned since the FCC's 2008 700 MHz auction.

In a note to clients, analyst Craig Moffett said the one thing he would be looking for when the auction was over and the FCC released bidding information—several days later—was what Dish had done.

"The key actor here is Dish Network," he said. "Everyone wants to know whether Dish was bidding to win or just bidding to raise prices (or even not bidding at all). Even if they were only a fly in the ointment, so to speak, pushing the prices paid by AT&T and Verizon higher, that will soon be known."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.