AWS-3 Keeps on Keeping on

After the last round of the day in the AWS-3 auction (177), the total in provisional bids was $44,638,245,300, with 27 new bids totaling $2,008,000 in round 177.

All but one of the 1,613 licenses up for auction have bids, the only one without is in San Miguel, Colo., which will cost a minimum of $1,010,00 if any eligible bidder — there are about 70 — wants it.

The bidding is now rising by a only a million or two dollars per round, but like the Energizer Bunny, the bidders just keep on going. The auction can't end until there are no bids or waivers in a round.

Starting Friday, the FCC is increasing the rounds to 14 a day from 10 and cutting the time per round from 15 minutes to 10 in an effort to wring the last bids out of the bidders and bring the auction to a close.

The auction began Nov. 13 with predictions it might bring in as much as $16 billion. It has obviously outperformed expectations. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are among the 70 eligible bidders that began the auction, and are expected to go home with the lion's share.

There are 65 MHz of spectrum in the auction, whose proceeds will pay for FirstNet, the interoperable broadband network, and then some.

The auction has already been dubbed a big success outside and inside the FCC, and should relieve financial pressures on the broadcast incentive auction, scheduled for early 2016.

The FCC has delayed comment on its next auction — that broadcast incentive auction — so that wireless companies bidding in the AWS-3 auction can learn from that experience before weighing in.

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.