FCC Sets $10 Billion-Plus Reserve on AWS-3

The FCC has proposed a reserve price of a combined $10,066,326,600 for the paired spectrum bands (1755-1780/2155-2180 MHz licenses) in the AWS-3 auction.

The auction (dubbed Auction 97) must raise at least that much for it to conclude.

It has also set Nov. 13, 2014 as the scheduled start date of the auction.

That came in a public notice issued Monday by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

Wheeler had signaled to Congress in written testimony that the auction outline notice would be released Monday.

The 65 megahertz of AWS-3 spectrum available (1,614 licenses) will be licensed on a geographic area basis. Of those, 880 will be by Economic Area (EA) and 734 will be Cellular Market Area (CMA). The frequencies will be licensed in five and 10 MHz blocks, with licenses available for five, 10 and 20 MHZ.

That 65 will be the largest amount of spectrum auctioned since the FCC's 2008 700 MHz auction.

The AWS-3 spectrum auction is requiring some relocation of government spectrum users, which Wheeler has described previously as an "unnatural act" for those agencies. In his testimony, he again thanked DOJ, DOD and the White House for being willing to engage in that act, as well as the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which oversees government spectrum and has been charged by the White House with finding ways to free up  more government spectrum, just as the FCC is doing on the commercial side.

AWS-3 is the second of three spectrum auctions mandated by Congress to fund the FirstNet interoperable broadband network, as well as local first responders, advanced 911, R&D, and deficit reduction.

The first auction, or H block spectrum, collected $1.564 billion toward that goal (FirstNet alone is $7 billion), but the FCC is already predicting that the AWS-3 auction will raise most if not all of that $7 billion, putting less pressure on the third auction, the broadcast incentive auction, scheduled for 2015, although Congress is looking to get $20 billion or so for deficit reduction out of that trio, so there will still be some pressure to go around.

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.