Round 10: FCC's Spectrum Auction Total Stands at $13.18B

After its first shortened round of bidding (round 10), the forward auction portion of the FCC's spectrum incentive auction has drawn $13.18 billion in bids, which net of discounts and bidding credits means $12.580 billion has been raised toward the $88,379,559,704 it needs to close the auction.

That $13.180 figure is up from the $12.610 billion in round nine, $12.040 billion with discounts and bidding credits.

As of round 10, the going price of the spectrum available in top market New York was $209,431,000, with demand exceeding supply 2.4 to 1—there were bids on a total of 24 blocks of spectrum with only 10 available. In fact, demand continued to outstrip supply in the top 30 markets.

The FCC has divided 126 MHz of spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters into 416 partial economic areas (PEAs). There are 62 parties bidding on that spectrum for mobile broadband, including Comcast, Dish and AT&T.

As of Tuesday, the FCC moved from two rounds of bidding per day, two hours apiece, to three rounds at one hour apiece until further notice. It has been raising the price by 5% each round, so boosting the number of rounds will speed the process of trying to get to that $88.379 billion.

At the current pace of three rounds a day, with the bid total increasing by $400-$500 million per round, it would take another two and a half months for the forward portion to reach that break-even figure and the auction to close.

But the FCC is prepared to lower its spectrum-clearing target from 126 MHz to 114 MHz if it does not reach $88.379 billion and return to the reverse auction, where it would pay broadcasters less, then see if a second stage of the forward auction would cover that amount. It has several other lower targets—down to 70 MHz—as further fallback positions.

The FCC can also speed or slow the process by increasing or decreasing its spectrum asking price in each round, adding more rounds or cutting back on them.

Bidders also must bid on at least 95% of their bidding units in each round, though they can make strategic shifts among all the available blocks.

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.