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WSJ Report: Google to Bid Billions for Wireless Spectrum

Google is preparing a solo bid for the U.S. government’s digital TV spectrum auction in January that could run $4.6 billion or higher, and the Internet giant is also testing out its own wireless network in Silicon Valley, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The newspaper, citing anonymous sources, said the company “is gearing up to make a serious run at buying wireless spectrum” and is prepared to bid without any partners. Google is working out a plan to finance its bid using its own cash and “possibly some borrowed money,” according to the Journal.

Google in July told the Federal Communications Commission that the company would bid $4.6 billion in the 700-Megahertz spectrum auction if the agency adopted four auction conditions to ensure “open network” access. The agency embraced two of Google’s requests, one of which will require the winner of 22-MHz of the spectrum to allow consumers to use any handset and download any application. But the FCC refused two others: Google had wanted spectrum licensees to be forced to function as wholesalers and to interconnect their networks with third-party Internet-access providers.

After the FCC announced the auction rules, Google was noncommital about its plans for bidding.

The FCC has set a Dec. 3 deadline for bidder to declare their intent to bid on the spectrum, and the Journal noted that “last-minute developments could alter Google's strategy” in the next two weeks.

 The spectrum is being made available as a result of the government-mandated switchover for local TV stations to discontinue analog broadcasts by Feb. 17, 2009. The FCC is auctioning off 62 MHz of spectrum in the 700-MHz band, considered a valuable piece of wireless real estate with long-range and can be used for voice, video and data.

The Journal also reported that Google has hired game-theory specialists to help with its auction strategy, and that the company is focused mainly on bidding on the "C" block of the 700-MHz megahertz spectrum.

Earlier this month, Google announced a strategy to seed open-source software for mobile phones, with a project code-named Android. The idea, which has support from Motorola, Samsung Electronics, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Intel, is to encourage developers to write mobile Internet applications that would run on a variety of phones and carriers.

Meanwhile, four cable operators – Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Advance/Newhouse – have reportedly started to recruit “telecom industry experts” in what may be a prelude to the cable industry developing its own mobile-phone service.

The Associated Press, citing an anonymous source, said the four operators are seeking executives to develop “wireless business strategy and manage a portfolio of handsets.” The operators own SpectrumCo, a joint venture that acquired Advanced Wireless Services spectrum for $2.4 billion in an FCC auction last year.