Carriers Say Round One of the FCC Auction Was A-OK

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Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 5.56.18 PMIt was the best of auctions, it was the worst of auctions…depending on whom you ask. While broadcasters are bemoaning a shortage in bidding of $66 billion dollars in Round One, carriers are pointing out they spent lavishly compared to past auctions.  The carrier version of events comes after the FCC’s auction of spectrum surrendered by broadcasters came in at bids well short of the $88 billion goal last week…$66 billion short to be exact…necessitating more rounds.

Wireless trade association CTIA said the Stage 1 bids, totaling $23.1 billion, still surpassed the last low-band spectrum auction total of nearly $19 billion, according to insidesources.com.

The figure means “that only the AWS-3 auction generated higher revenues in the 20-plus year history of FCC auctions,” CTIA VP for Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann blogged. “This is already bigger than the last low-band auction of 700 MHz ($18.96 billion) that was heralded at the time by the FCC as a ‘history-making auction.’” CTIA members include large carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.  

NAB was less than impressed with the results, saying they indicate wireless carriers exaggerated claims they’ll soon run out of needed spectrum due to high-bandwidth smartphone applications like streaming video, Inside Towers previously reported.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the CEO of a large wireless firm told him last fall even if his company had 90 percent of its traffic offloaded onto WiFi and other networks, it would still be out of spectrum by 2020, reports insidesources.com.

The Commission plans to begin the second round of the reverse auction September 13, for 114 MHz. Bergmann said the agency has been transparent about how the auction would unfold and it was “widely anticipated” the auction would not close after the first round.

Round one of the reverse auction, with broadcasters bidding down against each other lasted a month, and the forward auction bidding just over two weeks. If round two is similar, results could be known by November, according to the account.

Dan Hays, an independent industry consultant, told Telecom TV the results demonstrate how much pressure the mobile industry faces to limit Capital expenditures. “The ball is now back in the court of TV broadcasters, who will need to decide whether to accept lower prices for their spectrum or bet on future opportunities to cash in on their airwaves.”

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