Cell tower and city buildings at sunset

We are three-and-a-half rounds into the FCC’s spectrum auction that will relinquish blocks of the 600MHz spectrum band from television stations and give it to wireless service providers of all kinds.

Dish Networks, Comcast, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon were all counted as participants in the game. And they were bad players in terms of meeting broadcasters’ expectations of gaining $86 billion in the first round of bidding. The FCC hoped to clear more than 126MHz of spectrum across the nation, but as only around $20 billion of demand showed up, round after round, the bars were lowered.

The commission’s chairman (at least until when Donald Trump is inaugurated as President), Tom Wheeler, stated that broadcasters¬†have settled for a $10.05 billion target to clear out their stations spread across 70MHz of usable spectrum. Seems like a bargain, isn’t it?

Well, after two rounds of forward bidding, the players have met the target. We have no idea how much they’ve paid as there are seven more rounds of hawking to go. We’ll learn the final amount sometime after January 25.

The FCC and the wireless industry hope to activate the spectrum for cellular use by 2020, though broadcasters are complaining that the deadline doesn’t them enough time to clear out the stations that need to be either taken off the air or moved to different channels. Furthermore, the abandoned spectrum will need repacking.

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