Third Time's the Charm: FCC Tries to Price Broadcast Bandwidth for Mobile

The FCC is once again trying to set a price for the 600 MHz broadcast spectrum that it wants to auction for mobile usage.

The agency has once again started a reverse auction for 108 MHz of spectrum, which would translate to 80 MHz of usable bandwidth for service providers, where the broadcasters set the price they expect to see for the spectrum.

This process has not been too successful so far. The TV broadcasters have set incredibly high targets for the low-band spectrum.

In the first stage of process, broadcasters were looking for $86.4 billion for 126 MHz of spectrum, or about double the total hit by the most profitable spectrum auction ever held in the US. Bidding ended at $23 million.

There was only one round of bidding on the second stage of 90 MHz spectrum before the "forward auction" was stopped.

We don't yet know what broadcasters will set as their target price for the 80 MHz of cleared spectrum. There are, however, implications for the industry because of this protracted auction process.

The auctions are now very likely to continue into 2017. It will take 39 months -- or just over three years -- to clear broadcasters off the spectrum. It usually takes two or three years for operators to light up new spectrum if they win at auction. So, we are looking at 2021 to 2022 -- at the very earliest -- as the point where this spectrum becomes available for commercial networks.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler has previously said that 600MHz could help "accelerate US deployment of 5G" by using it for the "deployment of a wide-area 5G coverage layer." The radio waves, however, will become less attractive for bandwidth-hungry 5G usage as the amount of spectrum on offer drops.

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 11/6/2016 | 11:08:28 PM
What's a realistic figure? I think $35B to $40B.


Reasoning: Sprint isn't even biding. AT&T and Verizon could have interference issues w/ 700MHz spectrums in certain areas. Spectrum amount declining. Feel like the broadcasters need to be a bit more relaistic.
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