Wireless Systems Design

FCC Meeting Goals For Spectrum Auction

As you may have heard, the FCC started auctioning off 62 MHz of prime spectrum space in the 700 MHz region January 24th. This is the spectrum being abandoned by the UHF TV stations as they switch from analog to digital format on February 17, 2009. This is excellent spectrum space as it supports longer range and greater penetration than the higher cellular and microwave frequencies. It is expected to be used to expand cellular services as well as support cell phone TV and even perhaps a version of the broadband wireless MAN WiMAX. The FCC has great expectations that appear to be coming true. The auction is a closed affair so it is difficult to know who is bidding on what. But everyone expects the big guns AT&T and Verizon to bid as well as T-Mobile. Even some cable TV and satellite TV companies may bid. The expectation is that Google will also bid on the so called C block (22 MHz) that has some conditions tied to it. The minimum bid must be $4.6 billion and the winner must build out a fully open network that will accept any new hardware or software. This is unlike the current closed systems of the main cellular companies. A minimum bid exceeding that amount has been submitted meaning the someone is going to get it. The D block (10 MHz) has a minimum bid level of $1.3 billion and has yet been bought. This spectrum must be used for a network that is shared with the U.S. public safety services for an emergency response system. So far the auction appears to be going well and it will continue a while longer until bidding stops, probably in several weeks. As of February 5th, the bids totaled just short of $19 billion. Not bad at all. If segments of the spectrum are not bought, the FCC will review the bidding requirements, possibly lower the minimums, then offer another auction. To check on the auction progress you can go to the FCC Web site at www.fcc.gov and search on Auctions. Look for auction 73, or try this link to get there directly.

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