FCC's Spectrum Forward Auction Starts Aug. 16

Related: FCC Releases Forward Auction Guide

The forward portion of the FCC's spectrum auction will begin Aug.16, the FCC said Friday.

It also released the final list of qualified bidders for that portion of the auction. Of the 99 who were initially qualified, 62 made upfront payments and are now eligible to bid. Those included AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Dish and T-Mobile.

Notable among those not making those payments—in the hundreds of millions and billions of dollars—was Sinclair.

In the forward auction, wireless companies and others will bid for reclaimed broadcast spectrum and the FCC will need to get a little over $88 billion for the 100 MHz of spectrum (26 of the 126 MHz clearing target is for guard bands) for broadcasters to whom it has pledged $86.4 billion (the other $1.957 billion or so is for auction expenses and post-auction TV station repacking costs).

The reverse portion of the auction, where broadcasters bid to give up spectrum—low bid wins—ended June 29 but could pick up where it left off if the forward auction falls short of that $88 billion and the FCC has to lower its clearing target to 114 MHz. The FCC has always factored the possibility of multiple rounds into the auction framework, given that it was the marketplace deciding the value of the spectrum.

Related: Spectrum Auction Likely to See Multiple Rounds

The FCC announced a final auction administrative cost figure of $207 million, a savings of $19 million over its initial estimate of $226 million.

The FCC had said it would not start the forward auction until at least 15 business days after it released the final eligible bidders public notice, so it will be a little longer than that.

The FCC was expected Friday to start sending out electronic keys (RSA tokens) to those eligible bidders. It will hold a practice auction starting July 25, running four to five days. A mock auction will be held Aug. 11-12.

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.