updated 03:15 pm EST, Thu January 24, 2008
700MHz Auction Begins
The Federal Communications Commission today began the highly anticipated auction for the 700MHz wireless spectrum. Divided into several blocks of airspace, the contest is widely believed to be responsible for future wide-area Internet airspace both across the US as a whole as well as for regional carriers. The rules of the auction prevent the FCC from detailing most of the process, though the regulatory body currently notes that bids so far have totaled $2.4 billion. This reveals that many of the larger players in the auction have yet to bid as the most coveted blocks of wireless space require a minimum $4.6 billion bid.
However, future rounds of bidding are known to include companies such as AT&T, Google, and Verizon, all of whom are likely to use any wireless frequencies won in the auction for new or extended cellular service. Google in particular is regarded as one of the chief motivators behind the auction and successfully established rules that require winners to allow any device and any software to run on a future network, preventing incumbents such as AT&T and Verizon from excluding competitive but otherwise compatible wireless handhelds. Google is rumored to be testing 700MHz access on a private network with phones using its Android mobile OS.
The bidding process is expected to take several weeks or more and will not have an immediate impact on the wireless landscape until February 2009, when the 700MHz band is dropped by analog TV and any winning bidders can begin using the airwaves for their own services.