Spectrum Auction Bids Total $12.6 Billion After Round 9

At the end of round nine of the forward portion of the FCC spectrum incentive auction, bids totaled $12,610,269,00.

When discounts and bidding credits are subtracted, the spectrum auction has now drawn $12,040,000,000 toward the $88,379,558,704 it will take to close the auction and start moving broadcasters to new spectrum quarters.

That $12.6 billion total was up from the $12,043,700,000 bid in round eight.

The FCC reclaimed 126 MHz from broadcasters in the reverse auction contingent on being able to get enough in the forward auction to cover that $88.379 figure. If not, it is back to the reverse auction at a lower clearing target--114 MHZ--so it will have a smaller figure to have to cover when it returns for a second bite at the forward auction. The auction has been structured with multiple clearing targets.

The FCC is increasing the number of rounds from two, two-hour a day sessions to three, one-hour sessions starting Tuesday (Aug. 23). It did not say why, but did say it could adjust the auction as it monitored the bidding.

It is currently raising the prices by 5% per round, but could increase or decrease that figure as it sees fit, or could add or subtract rounds as it continues monitoring. The auction will increase in complexity in the latter rounds, so the FCC could slow it again if it chose.

The auction is a clock auction, with the FCC raising the price each round and requiring bidders to bid in each round using at least 95% of the bidding units they have committed to, though they can be used on any of the 416 partial economic areas (PEAs), the geographic units into which the spectrum has been divided.

That means that if demand increases in a market from one round to the next, it could mean either less demand in that market, or that the bids were being parked there strategically--given the 95% use requirement--before being moved to another market.

Currently, in top market New York, demand for spectrum at the round nine clock price of $199,458,000 was 2.6 times the demand, but that was down from 3.3 times the demand in the earliest rounds.

Forward auction bidders include Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Dish and T-Mobile.

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.