Wheeler: Incentive Auction Is on Course and Speed

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler reiterated Thursday that the FCC is on track to wrap up the incentive auction framework by the end of this year and hold the incentive auction at the beginning of 2016.

That came in a press conference following the FCC's January monthly meeting. "We are on course and speed for making the final decisions in the auction at the end of this year so we can begin the auction early next year. Nothing has changed."

He was asked if there should be a pause to give likely bidders like Verizon and AT&T a change to catch their financial breath given that the AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction just closed with over $44 billion bid, most of it thought to have come from the two largest carriers.

Wheeler said the winning bidders were getting spectrum that they could raise revenue on and had "bid on a budget" knowing that the incentive auction was coming up. "The CFOs of these companies didn't just fall off the turnip truck," he said. He said he has been on the other side, and that the companies that bid were "bidding to a plan."

He also said that while the $44 billion is a large "absolute number," it is not so large in relative terms compared to revenue, cash flow and earnings for the wireless industry. "I think they got a deal," he said.

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.