700 MHz Auctions Hit 'Open Access' Threshold
Bidding for the major C band block of 700 MHz wireless broadband spectrum has just broken the $4.6 billion reserve required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make this "beachfront property" spectrum an "open access" block that any device and any application can be used over.
The C band bidding had been stalled at $4.3 billion late yesterday afternoon and this morning. Round 17 of the auction, which has just closed, however, pushed the 50-state, eight-license C band tranche up to $4.7 billion.
Overall, the grand total of bids for all of the bands now stands at $12.8 billion, with $1.2 billion in provisionally winning bids added this round.
The FCC doesn't doesn't reveal the names of the companies bidding, or allow them to give any details, in order to prevent collusion among potential winners of the spectrum. Nonetheless, the triggering of the "open access" conditions is clearly good news for one of the companies considered to be a major contender in the C band bidding -- search giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
Google has been among the major advocates pushing for open access for the C band for a year now. Google said on July 20, 2006, that it had set aside $4.6 billion for a portion of the wireless spectrum if the FCC would agree to four conditions, which included the ability to use any suitable device on the network, access to any applications, and enabling resellers to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis. The FCC agreed to everything but the wholesale terms. (See FCC Straddles Open Access Issue.)
Google, however, is not the only player suspected to be a player in the C band auctions. Verizon Wireless and other major carriers are also likely interested parties.
Verizon said late in 2007 that it will apply open access rules to its own CDMA networks this year and bring those forward to its 4G networks as they get deployed. (See Verizon Tears Down the 'Walled Garden' .) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung