Washington Hails Success of AWS-3 Auction

D.C. was quick to respond Thursday at the news that the FCC's AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction had closed with a record $44-plus billion in provisional bids, likely the majority from Verizon and AT&T, starting with the FCC.

“Today we closed bidding Auction 97 – by far the highest-earning spectrum auction the United States has ever seen.  But it was much more than that," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "This auction also marked a new era in spectrum policy, where a collaborative and unprecedented effort resulted in new commercial access to federal spectrum bands.  A bipartisan group of leaders in Congress, federal agencies – especially NTIA and DoD – the White House, industry, and the team at the FCC all came together to help meet the Nation’s demand for wireless broadband.  

“Improving consumer access to wireless broadband is a priority of mine, and has been a priority of the Commission over the past five years.  Now, an additional 65 megahertz of spectrum is available to improve wireless connectivity across the country and accelerate the mobile revolution that is driving economic growth and improving the lives of the American people.  The results of this auction confirm the strong market demand for more spectrum. We are confident there will continue to be strong demand for valuable low-band spectrum that will be made available in the Incentive Auction early next year.”

"If you had conducted a poll of analysts before the start of the AWS-3 auction, the highest prediction given for its yield would not have exceeded $18 billion," said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "Seventy-seven days and a record setting $44.89 billion later, Auction 97 has shown that demand for this spectrum was phenomenal.  Some experts opine that the winning bid total is due in large part to bidding and other competitive strategies unique to this band.  I believe one of the key factors for this unanticipated level of activity is that the AWS-3 bands are near the AWS-1 bands and there are already base stations and other equipment available.  Once the FCC makes the bidding activity public, I suspect there will be many more stories about the results of this auction."

"The AWS-3 auction has been a historic success, raising almost $45 billion in provisionally winning bids," said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. "This is great news for several reasons. The auction will help us fund the national priorities identified by Congress, including deficit reduction, the advancement of wireless public safety communications, the deployment of NG911, and FirstNet. It will help the wireless industry meet exploding consumer demand. And it will broaden the American platform for wireless innovation, already the world’s envy.

We can already draw a few lessons from the AWS-3 auction, beyond the obvious fact there is intense demand for mid-band spectrum. The most important is that the way the FCC structures an auction matters. In AWS-3, we made the rules as simple as possible. We maintained open eligibility. And we auctioned off spectrum that was internationally harmonized for commercial use. These decisions yielded robust competition and helped maximize revenues. I hope we take a similar approach in future auctions.

"We congratulate Chairman Wheeler and his staff – along with key members of the House and Senate involved in shaping spectrum policy – for a job well done on the remarkably successful AWS-3 auction," said the National Association of Broadcasters in a statement. "This auction's success is a tremendous point of pride for our nation's broadcasters, as our work to share BAS spectrum with the Department of Defense paved the way for this groundbreaking event.

"We are proud of our hard work under incredibly tight timelines to develop a sharing framework with DOD so that we can now realize a fully funded nationwide, interoperable public safety network and make a meaningful dent in the federal deficit."

"The amazing prices paid in the AWS-3 Auction set the floor for the much more valuable 600 MHz auction," said Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition executive director Preston Padden. "The carriers have the incentive and the access to capital to bid aggressively next January and any further delay would be a disservice to consumers who are clamoring for more robust wireless broadband for their smart devices."

“The AWS-3 auction is the highest-revenue generating auction in the 20 year history of FCC spectrum auctions, and with the last major auction six years ago, this reflects wireless companies’ demand for this finite resource to meet Americans’ growing mobile broadband usage," said CTIA president Meredith Attwell Baker. "With nearly $45 billion in bids – and billions more in capex – this auction is yet another illustration of the significant economic impact that exclusive, licensed use spectrum provides taxpayers and the U.S. economy. We thank Congress, the Administration and the FCC for auctioning 65 MHz of spectrum that will greatly benefit U.S. consumers. "

“As we’ve highlighted many times before, this is only the first step to unlock more mobile investment and benefits. A reinvigorated search to identify, clear and reallocate spectrum needs to begin today to meet the data demands of 2020, our connected lives and tomorrow’s 5G networks. As reports have shown, by meeting the goal for freeing up 500 MHz by 2020, wireless companies will create at least 350,000 new jobs in America and more than $166 billion for the U.S. GDP.”

“We’re thrilled with the result of the AWS-3 auction, but not surprised,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), in a statement. “Our spectrum demand for mobile broadband is large and growing, and investment will rise to match that demand. In light of the record bidding in the AWS-3 auction, it’s important the FCC chairman and commissioners continue to work earnestly on the upcoming incentive auctions, which will help expand access to even more licensed and unlicensed spectrum.”

“Today the FCC closed the most successful wireless auction in history," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & commerce Committee.  "This a reflection of the hard work of the staff at the Commission.  They should be proud.  As should the members of this Committee, whose dedication to these issues helped propel this auction to success.  This result is a demonstration of the power of this Committee when it acts in a truly bipartisan fashion.”

“This AWS-3 auction was a major win for consumers, innovation, and public safety," said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). "The auction generated $44.8 billion – enough to fully fund FirstNet, the nationwide interoperability network for America’s first responders and public safety officials.  The record-breaking auction, which was a product of true bipartisanship, highlights the great demand for more spectrum to keep pace with the increasing consumer reliance on smartphones, tablets and devices,” said Congresswoman Matsui.  “To meet future demand, we must develop a national comprehensive spectrum plan that promotes smart policies to spur more licensed and unlicensed spectrum in the marketplace.  I look forward to continuing to work on spectrum policy with Congressman Guthrie and our colleagues in a bipartisan manner moving forward.” 

"Today marks a key milestone in U.S. spectrum policy," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). "The success of the AWS-3 auction has ensured funding for our critically important public safety network, so that our first responders across the country will be able to communicate with each other and have the resources necessary to save lives.  It has also shown that it is possible to work together on a bipartisan basis and across agencies to free up spectrum and shows a path forward for making  more spectrum available for innovative commercial use."

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.