700 MHz auction attracts 96 bidders

Published 20 December 2007

By February 2009, TV broadcasters will have to vacate the 700 MHz so they can offer digital-only TV, as mandated by Congress; FCC will hold an auction for the coveted vacated spectrum, and 96 bidders — the usual suspects, but also Paul Allen, Chevron, and others — have been accepted (there were also 170 incomplete applications)

The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) long-awaited auction of radio spectrum in January is attracting major wireless bidders such as AT&T and Verizon in addition to newcomers such as Google, Chevron, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. The auction of portions of the 700 MHz band is scheduled to take place 24 January 2008. The radio spectrum is being vacated by broadcast television stations as they switch to digitization under timetables approved by Congress. Washington Technology’s Alice Lipowicz writes that under FCC rules, a segment being auctioned will serve as a nationwide public safety wireless network. This means first responders can preempt other users during emergencies. The auction winner must negotiate with Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp. nonprofit group designated by the FCC.

The commission released a list Tuesday of 96 accepted applications and 170 incomplete applications. Google, bidding as Google Airwaves, whose application was accepted for filing, previously announced its interest in bidding for the spectrum. It is the first time the Internet giant has made a foray into owning radio spectrum. The application of Vulcan Spectrum LLC, a venture capital firm headed by investor and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, was accepted. AT&T and Verizon Wireless filed applications that the FCC labeled incomplete. The petitioners are allowed to resubmit their applications by 4 January. Also on the incomplete list was Frontline Wireless of Greensboro, North Carolina, under the name Licenseco LLC, which petitioned the FCC in April to set aside spectrum for creation of a national public safety broadband network. Other companies that filed incomplete applications were Chevron, Alltel, Cox Wireless, and Qualcomm.