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AWS-3 Tops $42 Billion

The FCC's move to require bidders to up the ante or exit the AWS-3 spectrum lit a new fire under bidders.

After moving to phase II rules Tuesday, the bidding picked up substantially. The provisional bidding total has pushed past $42 billion and stood at $42,176,349,900 at press time. There were 252 new bids, vs. only a few dozen per round before the move.

While bidding before the phase II change had been in the low five-figures, the most recent round (68) saw $222,088,400 on 252 new bids.

The FCC said Monday (Dec. 8) that as of the first round Tuesday, which was round 68, it is changing the rules a little bit, requiring bidders to offer new bids on 95% of the licenses for which they are eligible or risk not being able to place any additional bids.

The auction is in day 14 (it began Nov. 13) with 65 MHz of spectrum (1,614 geographic licenses) up for bid in the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands.

There are 70 qualified bidders, the largest being AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile—Sprint sat it out.

The auction has blown by its $10.587 reserve price and the $15 billion-$16 billion pre-auction estimates of some to be by far the largest-ever spectrum auction take, though the bids are provisional until the winners fill out the paperwork, put up the balance of the money and any objections to the auction are vetted.

The auction is the second of three to raise money for various projects—AWS-3 has now paid for all those—and free up wireless spectrum for broadband. The third auction is the broadcast incentive auction scheduled for early 2016. The first auction was the H Block auction, which DISH won with a bid of $1.564 billion.