The long-awaited auction of spectrum that will be repurposed from broadcast TV for mobile broadband use has been years in the making. It was initially proposed in the 2010 National Broadband Plan and authorized by Congress in 2012. The low-band 600MHz spectrum will help to improve overall wireless coverage and boost indoor penentration of cellular signals.
Among the companies that were approved to bid are the usual suspects: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), as well as less expected names like Docomo Pacific. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has previously said that it is sitting the auction out.
This auction is different from classic spectrum auctions, which simply sell off bandwidth to the highest bidder. The 600MHz process started on March 29, with broadcasters setting down what they hoped to get for the UHF channels they are giving up. (See 600MHz Auction Could Take Months to Shake Out.)
The broadcasters have set the bar high for the full 126MHz of 600MHz spectrum, demanding at least $86.4 billion to give it up. The recent record-busting AWS spectrum sale made $45 billion, so this goal might prove to be optimistic. (See FCC's Monster Auction Ends at $45B in Bids.)
The FCC will have to hold further reverse auctions if the broadcasters' expectations are not met. The whole process could easily stretch into 2017.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading