The fight for H block spectrum went 167 rounds among 23 bidders and the winner appeared to be Dish, which is widely believed to have won all 176 licenses in the FCC auction, which went for 24 days and concluded last week.
The H block is 10 MHz of paired spectrum usable for mobile and low-power fixed service that the FCC auctioned as part of a general push to free up more spectrum for wireless broadband and the specific mandate by Congress that it auction that other spectrum, most notably reclaimed broadcast spectrum in an auction now slated for mid-year 2015.
Dish only had to guarantee that the aggregate price for all the licenses met the FCC's $1.564 billion minimum, but when the FCC released the names of the winning bidders for the licenses, there was only one name, American H block Wireless LLC, which had been widely reported as the name under which Dish was doing its bidding.
The FCC agreed to a Dish petition to waive some technical rules on its use of spectrum adjacent to the H block in exchange for that guarantee. Dish had said it wanted to bid on the H block, but needed some help from the commission on those rules.
Dish chairman Charlie Ergen has not said exactly what he plans to do with all that spectrum, but he has been spending billions accumulating wireless spectrum, citing both mobile video and data as possible reasons, and saying no company has successfully combined in-home and out-of-home service—cable ops are certainly trying by expanding and sharing Wi-Fi hot spots.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
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.