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FCC's Spectrum Auction Finally Ending This Week

The end is coming this week for the broadcast incentive auction. The reverse auction (broadcaster portion of the auction) has been over since Jan. 18, but the assignment-phase auction for forward auction bidders is scheduled to close March 30.

That is the follow-up auction where forward auction winners are bidding on specific frequency assignments for the 10 MHz blocks of spectrum they won. They are not required to bid, but if they don't they will just get what the FCC assigns them. On March 30, the FCC is expected to announce the new auction total with the follow-on take added in, but will not identify who won what for another couple of weeks.

In mid-April, the commission will release a public notice identifying the winning bidders in both reverse and forward auctions. It will also publicly announce the new channels for TV stations being repacked so the 84 MHz of broadcast spectrum cleared in the auction can be turned over to those forward auction bidders for wireless broadband—comprising 70 MHz for licensed users and 14 MHz for unlicensed and buffer bands between wireless uplink and downlink and between wireless and broadcast users.

Related: FCC Kicks Off Final Leg of Spectrum Auction March 6

Broadcasters being repacked will have 39 months from the release of that public notice to move to new channels or lose their license, though the FCC will look at special circumstances on a case-by-case basis. 

The clock-phase of the broadcast incentive auction began May 31, 2016, with broadcasters first offering up spectrum at an exit price in the reverse portion and wireless companies bidding for that spectrum in the forward portion. That forward auction clock phase ended Feb. 10, with a bid total of $19.6 billion. Broadcasters' reverse portion ended Jan. 18 after their $10 billion price for 84 MHz was met in round 4 of the forward auction. 

The auction began May 31, but the deadline for stations to commit to participate had been March 29, so from that commitment to the end of the last portion of the last auction will have been a year.

John Eggerton
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.