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H Blocks Draws $200 Million-Plus Through Round 3

The FCC's H block auction remained open at the end of round three, with a total of $221,265,600 bid on 98 of the 176 licenses available. That was an increase of only $18,470,300 above the round 2 total.

The reserve price in the auction is $1.564 billion, which Dish, one of the 23 qualified bidders, has guaranteed to pony up in exchange for the FCC's loosening of restrictions on Dish's adjacent-band spectrum.

The auction resumes Thursday morning at 10. It is the first of three auctions to free up spectrum for wireless broadband and pay for FirstNet, the interoperable broadband public safety network.

Dish appears to be the major bidder in the auction. It was not listed among the 23 eligible bidders, but numerous reports have identified it as the company behind "American H Block Wireless L.L.C," the first eligible bidder on the list.

The FCC agreed to a Dish petition to waive some technical rules on its use of spectrum. Dish had said it wanted to bid, but needed some help from the commission, which it has now gotten. In December 2012, the FCC voted to reallocate 40 MHz in the advanced wireless services (AWS)-4 band for satellite spectrum for terrestrial broadband, so Dish could potentially use that spectrum for a wireless broadband network, and to approve the auction of adjacent H Block spectrum.

In exchange for getting the waiver, Dish agreed to bid at least the reserve price of $1.564 billion in the H block auction.

Dish chairman Charlie Ergen has not said exactly what he plans to do with all that spectrum, but he has been spending billions accumulating wireless spectrum, citing both mobile video and data as possible reasons, and saying no company has sucessfully combined in-home and out-of-home service--cable ops are certainly trying by expanding and sharing wifi hot spots.

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.