updated 02:15 pm EST, Tue January 29, 2008
700MHz Bids Near Key Mark
Individual bids in the 700MHz FCC auction are nearing the amount needed to claim the key airwaves needed for mobile data, according to the communications body's's latest auction results. With almost $7.4 billion of total bids across the entire spectrum as of the end of the 10th round of auctions, the largest bid so far for the key nationwide "C block" license is now approaching $3.4 billion after less than a week of bidding, ensuring that at least one bidder is likely to meet the $4.6 billion mark needed to ensure open access for any device and software on a potential future wireless network. Bids for the just-begun 11th round will have to reach at least the $3.9 billion mark, the FCC says.
Rules for the auction prevent the FCC from naming individual bidders to prevent collaboration between companies involved in the auction. However, the largest bidders in the auction are known to include Google as well a cellular carriers such as AT&T, MetroPCS, and Verizon, all of whom are believed to be considering the 700MHz space for future high-speed cellular calling and wide-area, 4G Internet services. The 700MHz band is currenly being used by analog over-the-air TV but is said to be highly desirable for technologies such as WiMAX, which could use the extra-long range to create a national wireless Internet service.
No fixed date is set for the end of the auction, which is dependent largely on the willingness of the bidders to continue. The earliest any resulting services can launch on the affected 700MHz space is February 2009, when all analog broadcasts are required to shut down.