The US government has announced it had raised a record
19.6 billion dollars in an auction as bidders sought a
prime segment of the US wireless spectrum.
The 700 MHz auction that began on January 24 had closed
Tuesday after 261 rounds of bidding.
FCC did not identify the companies that had bid for the
licenses for the 1,099 frequencies in the 700 MHz
spectrum being abandoned as television broadcasters
complete a federally mandated switchover from analog to
digital by early next year.
More than 200 companies were in the bidding, including
telecommunications operators and industrial companies.
The proceeds will be used to support public safety and
digital television transition initiatives, FCC
representatives said. All US television broadcasting
will be digital after February 17, 2009.
Nearly all the bids were made during the first week of
the auction, particularly for the sought-after C-block,
the only chunk of frequencies that covers the entire US
territory, and by far the most expensive.
One bidder offered 4.71 billion dollars for the C-block,
where only three major players have shown interest,
according to analysts: telecom giants Verizon and AT&T,
and Internet giant Google.
The other blocks on the auction block cover zones
ranging from major portions of territory to small rural
Google and public interest groups successfully lobbied
the FCC to change the rules of the auction to ensure
that the winners must allow their customers to download
any software application they want on their mobile
device, and to use any mobile devices they want on that
That will mean a revolution for American consumers, who
generally have been forced to use the handsets and the
applications offered by wireless operators, which
"block" their cellphones from use on others' networks.
After the auction, any cellphone maker, such as Apple
and its iPhone, or any wireless software manucturer,
like Google, can team up with other manufacturers that
would automatically have access to the network.
Despite the overall success of the auction, the D-block,
dedicated to create a nationwide public-safety network,
failed to receive a bid that met the 1.3-billion-dollar
reserve price, the FCC said.