Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that Verizon and AT&T were the big winners in its 700-megahertz spectrum auction, in which the U.S. government put 36 megahertz of airwaves, from about 745 to 800 megahertz, up for bid. The government received $19.6 billion for rights to use the section of the spectrum. The frequencies are currently being used by television broadcasters (stations 60 through 67) but will be reclaimed by the government in February of 2009, when they will be doled out to the auction winners. The frequencies in the spectrum are appealing to wireless carriers because of their long range, their ability to penetrate building walls, and the fact that they will not require a major overhaul to existing hardware.
Google came away empty handed, but the company succeeded in pushing open-access conditions for the winning bids. These conditions, which affect the part of the spectrum that Verizon now owns, require that the frequencies be accessible to devices and networks from other companies–a requirement that could result in innovative new mobile phones and services, says David Reed, professor at MIT’s Media Lab.
“There’s really not anything [physically] special about the 700-megahertz spectrum,” says Reed. “I think the main thing that’s happened is that Google managed to get the auction done in such a way that the services have to be more open.”
Verizon paid $9.63 billion for 108 licenses in the C block, a 10-megahertz block that provides coverage throughout the United States. AT&T picked up 227 licenses in the B block, a collection of frequencies that cover various regions in the U.S., for $6.64 billion. The fate of the D block of the spectrum, in which the FCC in 2007 set aside 10 megahertz as part of a public-safety and private partnership, is still undetermined, as bids did not meet the required $1.3 billion.
Selling spectrum: The Federal Communications Commission divided part of the 700-megahertz spectrum, currently used for television stations 60 through 67, into chunks, labeled B, C, and D, that it sold at an auction completed last week. In 2009, the U.S. government will reallocate these frequencies to winners of the spectrum auction. The C block, in which Verizon won 108 licenses, provides service to the majority of the country. AT&T won 226 licenses in the B block, which covers regional areas scattered throughout the country. The D block was not auctioned because the minimum bid wasn’t reached. The A blocks, which tend to experience more interference than the others, were previously auctioned.
Source: The FCC