FCC Unveils Forward Auction Applicants

The FCC has released the list of 104 applicants to its forward auction, which are the wireless companies and others who who applied to be eligible to bid--the FCC and broadcasters hope many billions of dollars--on TV broadcast spectrum offered up in the reverse auction. They include AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, though AT&T's application was on the incomplete list.* Comcast is also among them under CC Wireless Investment, LLC.

Of those applications, 69 are complete and 35 are incomplete or otherwise deficient, the FCC said. The FCC will give the applicants until April 6 to cure any deficiencies in those applications, and so long as they do that, then they can participate, though not until they have submitted upfront payments in the millions of dollars.

By comparison, the last big wireless spectrum--the 2014 AWS-3 auction--had 80 applicants at this stage, of which 71 would up being qualified bidders, so likely most of the names on Friday's list will at least be in the hunt for spectrum.

Of the 104 incentive auction applicants, 19 sought a rural bidding credit and 35 sought a small business credit (there was no overlap in those categories).

Not all the names will be knowable until next week, when the FCC actually makes the database available, since some of them are bidders "doing business as" (DBA), with their actual ownership contained in the database.

Applying does not mean they will necessarily bid for spectrum. But nobody not on this lists will be able to participate.

Bidders will still have to submit a long-form application and eligibility for bidding credit, if they have sought one, after the close of the auction, so even winners aren't closers until the FCC has signed off on those. 

“The list of bidders is long and strong. This will be a big auction." said Preston Padden, former head of the Expanding Opportities for Broadcasters Coalition, stations that were interested in the auction and hoping for as long and strong a list as possible, which translates into heightened interest and open wallets for their spectrum.

* AT&T had no comment, but its initial applications in the AWS, AWS-3 and 700 MHz auctions were all initially incomplete for easily resolved administrative issues and it participated in all three, so this is likely a similar issue.

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.