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Hey Big Spenders! AT&T, Dish & VZ Splash Cash on Spectrum

AT&T, Dish and Verizon each bid over $10 billion on licenses for fresh bandwidth in the $45 billion AWS-3 auction, with Ma Bell emerging as the top bidder, the FCC revealed Friday.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) led the pack with $18.19 billion bid. Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) bid $13.33 billion. Verizon Wireless is stumping up 10.43 billion. T-Mobile US Inc. has bid $1.77 billion. (See FCC's Monster Auction Ends at $45B in Bids.)

"Relative to our expectations, AT&T and Verizon each spent a bit less than expected; Dish Network spent significantly more; T-Mobile was in-line," wrote Moffett Nathanson analyst Craig Moffett in a research note Friday.

The numbers, however, far exceeded the initial Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reserve price of $10 billion. In fact, AT&T bid nearly as much for its licenses as was paid for the entire 700MHz auction back in 2008.

The AWS-3 auction includes 65MHz of spectrum in the 1.7GHz and 2.1GHz bands, including 50MHz of paired channels for LTE uplink and downlink. The spectrum will likely be used by most of the operators to expand the amount of bandwidth available for wireless data services on their networks.


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AT&T says that it acquired enough licenses for "a near nationwide contiguous 10x10 MHz block of high-quality AWS-3 spectrum." The operator now covers 96% of the US population with the bandwidth. It expects to start using the spectrum in 2017 or 2018.

Verizon says it bought 181 licenses that cover 61% of the US.

Dish, meanwhile, has put out a statement saying it publicly filed to bid and invested in two other entities that did bid. It didn't reveal any further details on what it had won yet, citing FCC anti-collusion rules.

Dish doesn't have a wireless network. But it does now have a lot of adjacent spectrum in the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) bands.The US satellite provider holds 50MHz of spectrum: 40MHz in the AWS-4 (2/2.2GHz) band and 10MHz in the adjacent 1.9GHz H-Band. The H-Band could potentially be paired with AWS-4 for an uplink and downlink channel. (See $35B+ Spectrum Auction Dings Verizon, Shines Dish.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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