Spectrum Auction Action Pushes Bidders to Round 17

The bidding ticked up by about $22 million in round 16 as the FCC's incentive auction crept along toward its eventual close after this, stage four of the forward auction.

The new total was $18,649,309,387, up from $18,627,621,387 in round 15.

Round 17 starts at 4 p.m. as bidders continue to vie for spectrum blocks in smaller markets. For example, after round 16, demand still exceeded supply in Harrisburg, Pa.; Charleston, W. Va.; and Buffalo, N.Y. And some of the demand is strong. For example, in Corpus Christi, Texas, there were bids for 15 blocks (at the FCC's latest clock price of $139,000 per block) but only four blocks still available.

The FCC is auctioning seven unimpaired blocks of 10 MHz in each of 416 PEAs (partial economic units, or the auction's version of a market or its subdivision).

There has not been any activity in the top markets, where all the big money is, and broadcasters already know what they are getting—about $10 billion. But the auction can't close until there is no bidding in any market.

Even then, there will be a follow-up auction among the winning forward auction bidders to assign specific frequencies—they are bidding on generic blocks, and there is a value to having those be adjacent, so the FCC will get a little more money from the winning bidders to lock in the most desirable frequencies.

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.