NAB Underwhelmed By Wireless Auction Bids

The National Association of Broadcasters took gentle aim at wireless carriers after the forward portion of the FCC's broadcast incentive auction fell far short of the total needed to compensate the broadcasters who gave up 126 MHz to the cause of wireless broadband repurposing.

“NAB is surprised by the modest participation by wireless carriers in the first stage of the TV auction," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Perhaps the notion of a ‘spectrum crisis’ peddled in Washington for the last seven years is not as acute as policymakers were led to believe," he said.

The first stage of the forward portion of the auction closed unsuccessfully Tuesday with only $22,450,000,000 bid for the spectrum the FCC promised to pay broadcasters $86.3 billion for.

In the runup to the auction, wireless carriers consistently argued that the auction was necessary to meet the "expected six- to seven-fold increase in mobile data traffic within five years," as CTIA said in urging no delay in the auction.

"We look forward to the second round of the auction where wireless carriers will be afforded another bidding opportunity.”

That won't come until after the FCC lowers its spectrum sights from 126 MHz to probably 114 MHz and conducts the second stage of the reverse auction, in which it will buy less spectrum from broadcasters, then conduct the second stage of the forward auction and see if wireless carriers are willing to pony up this time around.

Given that there will be less spectrum for the same demand, prices should go up for the spectrum the FCC is trying to sell. It should also be even less impaired since there will be two fewer UHF channels cleared, thus more space to put broadcasters without having to repack them in the new wireless spectrum.

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.