FCC Seeks $10 Billion in Auction of AWS-3 Spectrum in November

Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...

By Bryce Baschuk  

May 19 — The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $10 billion reserve price for its Nov. 13 auction of 65 megahertz (MHz) spectrum from the AWS-3 band, according to  released May 19.

The second FCC auction this year seeks to sell the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz bands (GN Docket No. 13-185), as required by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Pub. L. No. 112-96).

The AWS-3 band is considered valuable due to its ability to penetrate buildings and its compatibility with internationally reserved wireless broadband allocations.

FirstNet Funding

Proceeds from the auction are intended to fund the $7 billion deployment of FirstNet, a nationwide interoperable communications network for first responders; help pay down the nation's debt; and help fulfill President Barack Obama's goal of reallocating some 500 MHz of spectrum for future mobile broadband uses by 2020.

The FCC's ability to maximize proceeds from the AWS-3 auction will affect how the agency formulates rules for next year's broadcast spectrum incentive auction of the 600 MHz band. In February, the commission auctioned 10 MHz of H Block spectrum for $1.56 billion.

Federal Incumbents

The auction's success will depend, in part, on paying federal users that currently occupy the band to either relocate or share the spectrum with wireless carriers. Last year, the Defense Department, whose systems operate on the band, agreed to relocate many of its key operations away from the 1755-1780 MHz band in a move that allowed the FCC to pair it with 2155-2180 MHz band. In return, Defense has sought access to commercial spectrum in locations such as military training ranges in otherwise unpopulated areas.

The Commerce Department National Telecommunications and Information Administration said it will cost $527 million to relocate or share with incumbent spectrum users in the 1695-1710 MHz band and $4.57 billion for the 1755-1780 MHz band, according to the new filing.

The FCC will offer one 10 MHz x 10 MHz paired spectrum block sold as economic area (EA) licenses; one 5 MHz x 5 MHz paired block sold as cellular market area (CMA) licenses; and two 5 MHz x 5 MHz paired blocks sold as EA licenses in the 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz bands. The commission also plans to offer one 5 MHz unpaired block and one 10 MHz unpaired block to be sold as EA licenses in the 1695-1710 MHz band.

Cellular market area licenses are generally smaller than economic area licenses.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Washington at bbaschuk@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

The FCC filing is online at: fcc.us/Tncz9X.


Request Tech & Telecom on Bloomberg Law