FCC's 600MHz Auction Flops Again

Dan Jones
12/6/2016
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The FCC has stopped the bidding process for the 600Mhz auction of broadcast spectrum for mobile usage after just one round.

A clearing price of $40.3 billion was set for 108MHz of the low-band spectrum, which would deliver about 80MHz of usable bandwidth for mobile broadband applications. Bidders including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless , however, only put up $19.7 billion in initial bids and the FCC -- once again -- halted the auction.

This means that the ball is back with terrestrial broadcasters running 600MHz UHF TV channels. After three previous tries this year, the FCC will hold another "reverse auction" to enable multiple brodcasters to set how much spectrum they want to give up and how much they want for it.

The process, which started on March 29 of this year, will go on into 2017. By then, the FCC will likely see a changing of the guard -- including Chairman Tom Wheeler -- as the Trump administration sweeps in. (See Trump Win Will Reshape FCC .)

Wheeler has talked of the possibility of the 600MHz band being used for low-band applications for 5G in the US. It seems unlikely, however, that the bandwidth will even be available for use as early 5G mobile networks arrive in 2020.

This is in part because the FCC says that it will take 39 months to get broadcasters off the spectrum.

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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