FCC Names 700 MHz Applicants

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is by no means the only new and interesting name that could break into broadband wireless through the 700 MHz spectrum auctions due to take place in January 2008 in the U.S.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said today that it has approved 96 applications to bid and is waiting on another 170 to complete their applications. The auction is due on January 24, 2008. (See Google Confirms 700MHz Bid and 700 MHz Deadline Looms.)

Many of the major wireless and cable operators are likely to bid on the bandwidth. Names in the frame include: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Alltel Corp. (NYSE: AT), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Cox Communications Inc. , Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP), MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) and MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS).

There are plenty of smaller carriers and other companies looking for a piece of the action, though. Alongside Google, notable names include WiMax player Towerstream Corp. (Nasdaq: TWER), CDMA kingpin Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), and petrol giant Chevron.

Venture money and individual investors are also in the mix. For instance, Microsoft's Paul Allen has applied to bid through his Vulcan Ventures firm.

The auctions are generating such interest because the spectrum is seen by many as the best bandwidth available for providing so-called 4G broadband services in the next decade. The 700MHz airwaves are becoming available as analog TV broadcasters move to digital.

Unstrung Insider chief analyst Gabriel Brown believes that bidders will need deep pockets to win the bandwidth and even more cash to actually build out a network using the spectrum:

"Assuming the C Block licenses sell at or around their aggregate reserve price of $4.6 billion, and then assuming $20 per person in capex for the network rollout, it would cost a minimum of $10 billion to meet the 75 percent of population coverage requirement," he writes in a recent report on the topic. (See Outlook Mixed for WiMax at 700 MHz.)

"In reality, it's likely to cost much more than that to create a network that, regardless of technology, will have substantially less capacity than today's 2G and 3G networks."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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