FCC commissioners

The back end of the Federal Communications Commission’s two-sided spectrum incentive auction has made it through one of its first hurdles fairly unscathed.

The forward auction will see wireless carriers and other participants bid on prized spectrum in the 600 megahertz (MHz) band relinquished by TV broadcasters. It is scheduled to launch two days after the close of the reverse auction, which starts May 31, in which the FCC will bid on the broadcast spectrum being given up.

The agency on May 12 released a public notice announcing the complete and incomplete applications for the forward auction. Just five of the 35 would-be bidders whose applications were incomplete when the FCC released an initial list of applicants in March failed to complete their applications in time to be considered for auction participation. The deadline for fixing issues to complete an incomplete application was April 6. 

The small roster of incomplete applications contained few surprises. The initial list had included a handful of big names among the incomplete applicants, most notably AT&T Inc.’s AT&T Spectrum Holdings LLC. Nearly all of them ultimately managed to get their applications in order. 

Of the five remaining whose applications remained incomplete after the deadline, the most notable was Liberty Spectrum Inc., a subsidiary of Liberty Global plc, itself one arm of media and communications mogul John Malone’s sprawling empire of Liberty-branded companies. FCC spokesman Charles Meisch told Bloomberg BNA that Liberty Spectrum had already said shortly after the initial list of bidders came out that it decided against participating in the auction after all. 

Meisch said another name on that list, Lisa Wendl, was simply the registered agent for another bidder who had accidentally submitted a duplicate application under her own name. 

That leaves just three that may (or may not) have held onto earnest interest to participate but didn’t make the cut: the virtually un-Googleable G-Wire (non-Google searches reveal an old Delaware shell corporation by that name and not much else); Laboral Data Systems, a business registered in the tourist town of Arecibo, Puerto Rico; and Thomas Kurian, an Oracle Corp. executive. Kurian didn’t immediately return a call regarding his interest — or lack of it — in the auction. 

So the auction moves forward with all the major bidders intact, 99 in all. They include AT&T, but also Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile US Inc., Comcast Corp. and Dish Network Corp

The next step in the forward auction will be for the FCC to turn the list of 99 bidders with complete applications to a final list of qualified bidders. That list will be released no later than 15 business before the start of forward-auction bidding, according to the public notice.