Going Once, Going Twice…Prime Spectrum Licenses

FCC hearing

The telecom industry is counting down to the March 29 kick-off of the most complicated spectrum auction the Federal Communications Commission has ever held. Although uncertainty about the auction continues to swirl, two upcoming filing deadlines -- Jan. 12 for broadcasters interested in surrendering licenses and Feb. 9 for bidders -- will be bellwethers for determining the auction's ultimate success or failure.

At stake is potentially 84 megahertz of 600 MHz spectrum band, according to a mid-range estimate, a swath of so-called “beachfront” spectrum now occupied by broadcasters and coveted by wireless carriers.

The Federal Communications Commission hopes to reclaim licenses to that spectrum from television stations and sell them to carriers--led by AT& T Inc., T-Mobile US, Inc. and Verizon Wireless--and possibly other bidders such as Comcast Corp. and Dish Network Corp., who are rumored to be interested in bidding.

Too few participants on either side will likely signal trouble ahead for the first-of-its-kind auction; conversely, many participants on both sides may bode well for the auction. Regulators, lawmakers, companies and consumer advocates are all on the watch for a “dark horse” bidder to emerge, possibly signaling future shakeups for the wireless industry in the years ahead.

For more on the upcoming auction, check out Bloomberg BNA’s 2016 Outlook.

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