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AWS-3 Tops $40 Billion

With 160 new bids representing $150,948,200, the FCC's advance wireless spectrum (AWS-3) auction topped $40 billion in provisional bids at $40,136,145,400.

That was after 46 rounds with bids on all but 16 of the available 1,614 licenses.

It is by far the biggest-ever auction take—more than double the next-largest auction ($18.96 billion for the 700 MHz auction in 2008), though the total won't be official until the auction closes—no more bids and waivers in a round—and the paperwork filed, money collected and opponents allowed to object.

But the take has far surpassed the reserve price of $10.587 billion and pre-auction estimates.

Up for auction is 65 MHz of advanced wireless spectrum—a combination of commercial and reclaimed federal spectrum—with bidders including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile—Sprint sat the auction out.

The AWS-3 auction, which began Nov. 13, is one of three auctions whose proceeds will go toward funding an emergency communications network (FirstNet) and other projects as well as deficit reduction.

The first (H block) auction collected $1.564 billion toward that goal (FirstNet alone is $7 billion). The FCC predicted that the AWS-3 auction would raise most if not all of that $7 billion—it has now raised enough to cover it and then some—putting less pressure on the third auction, the broadcast incentive auction, scheduled for 2016.