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FCC’s AWS-3 Auction Moves Past $39 Billion

Following round 41, the FCC's AWS-3 auction had added more than a billion dollars in provisional bids Monday following the Thanksgiving break.

At day's end, the new total in provisional bids was $39,343,825,600, up from $38,196,517,300 at the beginning of the day.

The top license in terms of money bid continued to be one for New York City and its environs — one of five geographic licenses connected to the city--at $2.46 billion. A second NYC license also came in at number three at $1.315 billion (L.A. was second at 1.961 billion).

There were 194 new bids in round 41, totaling $263.5 billion.

There were bids on 1,599 of the 1,614 licenses up for bid, with bids withdrawn on 15 licenses. Since the $10.857 reserve for the auction has long since been met, the auction could end successfully whether or not those licenses were bid on.

Up for auction is 65 MHz of advanced wireless spectrum (the AWS in the title), 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.

The auction won’t be over until there are no more bids or waivers exercised.

The auction began with three rounds per day, but added a fourth round Nov. 14 to speed the process.

If the auction closed today it would be the largest FCC auction take ever (the FCC has been auctioning spectrum since 1994) according to the FCC auctions page, dwarfing the second-biggest total of $18.96 billion for the 700 MHz auction in 2008, which had 1,099 licenses and wend a bruising 261 rounds. That involved broadcast spectrum.

The H Block auction had only 176 licenses up for bid and DISH got them all, though that took 167 rounds to meet the reserve price, which DISH did not exceed.