700 MHz Auctions 'On Hold'

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's 700 MHz auction was put "on hold" after 30 rounds this afternoon because of technical difficulties, but not before the single largest $4.7 billion bid for a 50-state C band package license was overtaken by the combined value of separate bids for the eight individual regional licenses in the bundle.

The provisionally winning bid for the C spectrum had stood at $4.7 billion for several days on the agency's site. The bid was enough to trigger the "open access" conditions that the FCC agreed to apply to that band. If a carrier or other interested party now wants to get the C band license as a nationwide package, however, they will have to bid more than $5 billion in Round 31 to secure the bundle. Otherwise, the spectrum will be awarded in eight separate regional licenses that cover the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.

The agency doesn't reveal which companies are bidding on what spectrum, in order to prevent collusion. There has been plenty of speculation, however, that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has been involved in the bidding on the C band package in order to further its open access agenda. (See 700 MHz Auctions Hit 'Open Access' Threshold.)

Overall, the bids for 700 MHz wireless spectrum now total over $18 billion, easily beating the $13.7 billion commanded in the last major wireless auction in 2006.

A spokesperson for the FCC couldn't add much detail about the technical troubles late this afternoon. The auctions, howver, are expected to resume tomorrow morning.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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