The FCC today announced the opening bid prices for its 600MHz spectrum auction, which will begin early next year. The most expensive opening bid for the reverse auction — in which broadcasters sell spectrum to the FCC — goes to WCBS-TV in New York, NY., which starts out at a cool $900 million. Meanwhile, the highest opening bid for the forward auction — wherein carriers will bid on the spectrum being given up — is $135 million, also for NYC.
The FCC also says that applications to participate in the auction can be submitted starting December 1, with the application window closing on December 18. The auction itself is currently expected to begin at the tail-end of March 2016. An FCC official says that the entire auction process is expected to finish in the second or third quarter of 2016.
Finally, the FCC has released a list the 30MHz spectrum reserves and the carriers that are eligible to bid on them. It’s worth noting that while Sprint is included on just about every one, the carrier has said that it doesn’t plan to participate in the auction.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has issued a statement on the release of all of this auction information:
“For potential Incentive Auction participants, today is a watershed moment. For all practical purposes, we’ve fired the starting gun: the release of final opening bid prices – combined with the detailed application procedures and other data released yesterday – provides broadcasters with all of the information they need to decide whether to apply to participate in the auction. Stations that miss the December 18th deadline will not be able to participate in this historic auction. Commission staff stand ready to educate and assist applicants as they prepare.”
T-Mobile has indicated that this auction is a big deal for it, adding that it could spend up to $10 billion if necessary. The good news for T-Mobile is that some smaller carriers for whom this reserve is also set aside for are expressing disinterest in participating in the auction, both because doing so will tie up millions of dollars for several years, and because they’ll still have to participate against AT&T and Verizon in some areas that the reserve doesn’t include.