FCC delays 600MHz TV spectrum auction until 2016

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The FCC has decided to delay the 600MHz TV spectrum auction initially planned for 2015, due to an impending court case. Gary Epstein, Chair of the FCC’s incentive auction task force, announced the move in a blog posted just a short while ago.

Earlier this week, the court issued a briefing schedule in which the final briefs are not due until late January 2015.  Oral arguments will follow at a later date yet to be determined, with a decision not likely until mid-2015.  We are confident we will prevail in court, but given the reality of that schedule, the complexity of designing and implementing the auction, and the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance of the auction, we now anticipate accepting applications for the auction in the fall of 2015 and starting the auction in early 2016. Despite this brief delay, we remain focused on the path to successfully implementing the incentive auction.

Epstein notes that there are “undeniable impediments” to the Commission’s efforts to push a successful auction. TV broadcasters are concerned that the stations being pushed closer together will result in a the viewership being decreased.

As reported by Fierce Wireless:

The NAB sued the FCC in August, arguing that the agency’s rules would diminish broadcasters’ coverage areas and could result in a loss in viewership. One of the broadcasters’ main arguments against the FCC is that the commission has changed how it calculates TV station coverage areas, using a methodology known as OET-69, referencing the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology.

This could all play in to T-Mobile’s hands. Only yesterday, the carrier’s chief of regulatory affairs submitted a petition to the FCC, asking that spectrum reserve rules be changed to make it easier for carriers without substantial amounts of low-band spectrum to get their hands on some. With the auction’s expected date being pushed back, it gives T-Mo more time to petition, lobby and argue for a fairer set of rules.

Source: FCC
Via: Re/code, Fierce Wireless

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  • J.J.

    i hope the delay does work to their advantage but i still am a bit disappointed we have to wait another year to get that much needed coverage

  • kev2684

    WTH. T-Mobile and Sprint needs the spectrum like, 3 years ago.

    • Mike

      Sprint has plenty of spectrum. Softbank just wont pony up the cash to deploy it. T-Mobile will get more AWS spectrum in November and this will give them more time to raise cash for the 2016 600Mhz auction. Im sure this will also give T-Mobile incentive to also snatch up as much 700Mhz spectrum as possible too.

      • UMA_Fan

        I think it’s more a case of sprints spectrum that they do have is lousy.

        • Bryan Pizzuti

          Well, who’s fault is that? No one made them buy all that BRS spectrum, they knew it was way up around 2.5 GHz.

        • joe

          The band was given to Sprint in exchange for losing spectrum in the 800mhz band as part of the 800mhz rebranding.

        • Dieter Moreno

          Any spectrum is good to have. The higher the frequency, the more towers need to be built. Sprint needs to build more towers. I use Clear for home internet with 14 Mbps typical off peak download speeds from a tower half a mile a way, but my friend across town a mile away from the tower can’t get any Clear reception.

          So if that’s what it takes, Sprint needs to build out their network to have towers every mile which Clear failed to do.

  • Stone Cold

    Will the delay cause T-Mobile to try and merge with say US Cellular?

    • Aurizen


    • TechHog

      They can’t afford it, and there have been enough mergers in this industry for a lifetime.

      • Octavio Araujo

        That’s the cheapest option for T-Mobile to acquire US Cellular, and US Cellular has been losing money fo a while

    • Octavio Araujo

      i see the possibility of T-mobile acquiring US Cellular to use their 700mhz spectrum and to fortify its netwok in the midwest region

  • Douglas Quaid

    Give me a break, who watches broadcast television today. For those individuals who do, all of their streams can be compressed into a small channel using h265 today.

    • EndlessIke

      I cut the cord. It was a great decision.

    • Dieter Moreno

      Do you pay for cable Douglas Quaid? Cutting the cord was an excellent decision for me. Although Hulu has many current TV shows streaming that air the day after, and Netflix has many current TV shows one season behind and many movies; however, there are some problems with only streaming if broadcast TV was to be eliminated.

      problem (1): Probably the most obvious problem. broadband speeds in the U.S. on average are terribly slow, and imagine how much slower they would be if everyone in a city was trying to stream a football game at the same time due to OTA coverage of the game eliminated. Don’t even think of everyone in the city trying to watch the game in 720 60p streamed individually. More like 240p with constant buffering is most likely what would happen, if it works at all.

      problem (2): The hypothetical example in problem (1) doesn’t exist. Live sports aren’t streamed by every network, and of the networks that stream games, the streams are never free.

      problem (3): Netflix does not have many old TV shows or old movies. OTA subchannels airing old movie and old TV show formats on the subchannels fill in the gaps of Netlflix.

      back to your actual proposal, a Single Frequency Network (SFN) that contains all broadcaster’s subchannel’s in a city on only a single 6 MHZ wide frequency. Even if H.265 is 4 times more efficient than MPEG-2, its impossible.

      Reason why its impossible (1): Probably the most obvious reason. Not enough bandwidth. In Chicago, Fox occupies an entire channel to broadcast in 1080 60i or 720 60p in the highest quality. Fox broadcasts prime time content in 1080 60i and broadcasts news and sports in 720 60p. So a whole one quarter of our hypothetical SFN’s bitrate would be occupied by Fox. Cbs Chicago also occupies an entire channel for the highest quality, always in 1080 60i (the only big 4 network to not broadcast live sports in 60 fps OTA). So a whole one quarter of our hypothetical SFN’s bitrate would be occupied by Cbs. So now a whole half of our hypothetical SFN’s bitrate would be occupied by just Fox and Cbs. Adding in the other two big 4 networks including their subchannels, Abc and Nbc, occupies 100% of the bitrate of our hypothemical SFN in total. No bitrate left for the CW, independents, Pbs, and foreign language stations.

      Reason why its impossible (2): Loss of cable coverage. The FCC does not require cable carriers to carry subchannels. The FCC will require cable carriers to carry channels that originally had their own frequency before switching to channel sharing, but for subchannels that never had their own frequency they would not be carried by cable. All of the cool movie subchannels would not be carried by cable (most of them aren’t carried by cable currently, and hopefully that changes to make basic local only cable more competitive to ween the general population off of cable until they all purchase an antenna).

  • Jay Holm

    Dissapointed! But hopefully T-Mobile can snag enough spectrum in the upcoming AWS-3 auction to get more markets up to 20mhz or even 30mhz instead of just 15mhz, it won’t be long, the AWS-3 auction takes place Nov 13 I believe.

    • Fabian Cortez

      20 MHz (20×20 MHz – 40 MHz total) is the largest single channel bandwidth.

      Anything more can be achieved via carrier aggregation (up to 5 channels of 20 MHz each – 100 MHz total).

      • vrm

        you mean band – max band width is 20 mhz. Communication channel is whatever the application defines, even using carrier aggregation.

  • Fabian Cortez

    …it gives T-Mo more time to petition, lobby and argue for a fairer set of rules.

    And raise more money.

  • Jay J. Blanco

    It also give tmobile more time to acquire more 700mhz. And AWS

  • boehmer365247

    The 600mhz auction isn’t going to be easy, and additional delays won’t be surprising. This stresses how important it is for T-Mobile (and Sprint) to pick up low frequency spectrum on the secondary market that they can use today. Unfortunately, the delay also increases the price of that spectrum.

    • EndlessIke

      I think the 700 Mhz Spectrum T-Mobile is utilizing has a “use it or lose it” expiration date. Unless I’m wrong, that date hasn’t changed, and will be a driving factor in the price of the spectrum moving forward.

  • Paul Garrison

    It’s both good and bad for Tmobile, but I think more good than bad. Tmobile could use the extra time to secure financing for the spectrum to ensure the share of it, but they could really use the spectrum sooner than later.

  • This is good news for T-Mobile. It gives them another year to re-tool and load up on 700MHz.

    • Mo’Nique

      Why so for Sprint?? 600 penetrates sooo much more deeper in most buildings than 700 would have, just know that part my Dear Bud.

  • Bryan Pizzuti

    Yeah, because people just can’t possibly watch broadcast TV without a decent amount of static-filled channels to flip past…

  • UMA_Fan

    This is good news for Tmobile’s growth going forwards. SoftBank has the pockets to outbid T-Mobile on a lot of that reserved 600mhz spectrum. Now that we are essentially looking at five years from now where 600mhz is widely deployed with devices available that support it.

    Within that time T-Mobile could double down on 700mhz since that will be more vital in the near term since device coming out here on out seem to support 700mhz already.

  • William Burr Winans

    If T-Mobile are interested in buying 700mhz why not try acquiring the spectrum nation wide and not worry about 600mhz auction?

  • joseph

    I wonder what this means for Dish trying to buy them. They were waiting until after this auction but now they either have to make a move or not without getting a new valuation on their spectrum…

  • Cam Fas

    700 mhz it is get some of that in Vegas since it will probably be 3-5 years before devices even support those bands I’m more interested now in the 700 and aws 3 spectrum maybe those bands can be included in the next generation iPhone andl I pad air3 I’m not upgrading until those bands are supported

  • Cam Fas

    700 mhz it is get some of that in Vegas since it will probably be 3-5 years before devices even support those bands I’m more interested now in the 700 and aws 3 spectrum maybe those bands can be included in the next generation iPhone andl I pad air3 I’m not upgrading until those bands are supported

  • dtam

    Doesn’t this also delay channel 51 from vacating?

    • Aaron C

      Yes, it does, according to the 700Mhz map description. During the 600Mhz auction, the channel 51 stations interfering with 700Mhz pretty much have to relocate within 39 months of the auction. Ugh.