FCC Forward Auction Bidding Starts Dec. 5

As expected, bidding in stage three of the forward auction will begin Dec. 5, the FCC said Friday.

Stage three of the reverse auction ended Thursday, with the broadcasters' new asking price of $40 billion.

Now forward auction bidders will start competing for the 108 MHz of spectrum relinquished (actually 80 MHz after guard bands are factored out, which are buffers between wireless uplink and downlink spectrum and between broadcasters and wireless operators).

Bidding starts promptly at 10 a.m., with two two-hour rounds planned, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2-4 p.m.

The FCC said that would be the schedule "until further notice," though the FCC can add or shorten rounds at its discretion.

It might not have time to do that if recent past is prologue. Stage two of the forward auction only took one round after bidders all decided to reduce their demand rather than raise their prices and stuck with the $22 billion they had bid in stage one, far below broadcasters' first two asking prices of $86 billion for 126 MHz and $55 billion for 114 MHz.

Among the key questions going forward are whether forward auction bidders will move off that $22 billion this time around and whether there is a price point at which broadcasters decide their spectrum is more valuable as ongoing operations—particularly given a new Republican administration that will likely loosen ownership limits and could advance their interactive next-generation transmission standard that could help them be a player in wireless offloading or delivering data to connected cars.

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.