Google to Bid for DTV Wireless Spectrum

Claiming it’s putting its money where its mouth is, Google announced Friday that it will apply to participate in the Federal Communications Commission's January auction of wireless spectrum in the 700-Megahertz band – and that its bid, likely to exceed $4.6 billion, “does not include any partners.”

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, in announcing the search giant’s plans. “Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today's wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet."

Schmidt was referring to Google’s pledge to the FCC, in July, that the company would bid $4.6 billion in the spectrum auction if the agency adopted rules to ensure “open network” access. Previously, Google had hedged on its plans for bidding.

The FCC’s rules for the auction require bidders that win the so-called C-Block, 22-MHz within the band to allow their users to download any software application they want on their mobile device and to use any mobile devices on that wireless network -- if the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C-Block is met at auction.

As a prelude to its 700-MHz bid, Google this month announced a strategy to seed open-source software for mobile phones, with a project code-named Android. The idea, which has support from Motorola, Samsung Electronics, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Intel, is to encourage developers to write mobile Internet applications that run on a variety of phones and carriers.

The 700-MHz spectrum is being made available as a result of the government-mandated switchover for local TV stations to discontinue analog broadcasts by Feb. 17, 2009. The FCC is auctioning off 62 MHz of spectrum in the band, which is considered a valuable piece of wireless real estate with long-range and can be used for voice, video and data.

In Google’s announcement Friday, the company said Schmidt “praised the leadership of FCC chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners for adopting the new rights for consumers earlier this year.”

Speculation on Google’s intentions intensified earlier this month after the Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 16 that Google was preparing a solo bid for the spectrum and that it also was testing out its own wireless network in Silicon Valley. 

Google said it will file its formal application to the FCC to participate in the auction on Monday, Dec. 3. The 700-MHz auction is set to begin Jan. 24.