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AWS-3 Rolls On; Wheeler Cites Success

The AWS Auction was chugging along toward $44 billion Thursday. After round 83 of the spectrum auction, the provisional bid total was $415,092,100, with $88,913,000 added on 67 new bids in the most recent round, much to the delight of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The auction got plenty of attention at the FCC's December meeting Thursday, where Wheeler said he did not want to count his chickens before hatching, but went ahead anyway, declaring the auction a success--others have already done so--and handing out kudos to everybody from the government spectrum holders who agreed to move and share other spectrum to free up the 65 MHz for the auction, to the White House, Congress, FCC staffers, and others who made it possible, including the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which coordinated the federal spectrum part.

Wheeler said that while the bidding was not over. "When the House Energy & Commerce leadership is issuing statements on the auction using the headline 'BOOM!,' I think it is pretty safe to say that the auction is a success," he told reporters in a press conference following the FCC's monthly public meeting. "That headline was when it was only at $35 billion," he said, pointing out it was now over $43 billion."

He cited pre-auction estimates of $12 billion to $16 billion to illustrate its success, and elsewhere used that figure to suggest that wireless companies were continuing to invest in their networks even faced with possible classification of wireless broadband under open Internet rules it is now not subject to.

The chairman said the auction would raise enough money to fully fund Firstnet, the interoperable broadband network, and make a "significant contribution" to deficit reduction. He also said the freeing up of 65 MHz of spectrum was also a "nontrivial contribution" to flexible commercial use and helping satisfy "the continuing, growing demand for wireless services."

Wheeler called the auction a classic example of the benefits of bipartisan government and what collaboration can produce. Congress directed the FCC to hold the AWS-3 auction and agency and congressional staffs worked behind the scenes on the auction. " I think it is a powerful, text book example of a bipartisan approach to attacking common goals," he said.