T-Mobile, DISH dominate 600MHz auction; Verizon emerges empty-handed

18 Apr 2017

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally confirmed the identities of the successful bidders in its 600MHz Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction (‘Auction 1002’), which concluded in February 2017. Bidding in the so-called ‘Forward Auction’ reached USD19.768 billion as the process drew to a close, surpassing the reduced USD10.055 billion ‘clearing cost’ that was negotiated with the nation’s broadcasters in January 2017, via the FCC’s ‘Reverse Auction’. The watchdog claims that the gross revenues derived from the bidding process will make the auction the second largest in FCC history.

The FCC notes that a total of 50 bidders placed winning bids for a total of 2,776 licences, with T-Mobile US comfortably dominating the proceedings. The Deutsche Telekom (DT)-backed firm agreed to pay USD7.993 billion for a total of 1,525 regional licences, edging out satellite TV operator – and long-time wireless market aspirant DISH Network (bidding as ParkerB.com Wireless) – which bid a total of USD6.211 billion for 486 licences. Other notable bidders include: cable giant Comcast (bidding as CC Wireless Investment), which will pay USD1.725 billion for 73 licences; AT&T Mobility (USD910.2 million, 23 licences); and US Cellular (USD328.7 million, 188 licences). Less is known about the intentions of Channel 51 (USD858.7 million, eight licences) and Bluewater Wireless (USD568.3 million, 66 licences), although the latter previously bid in the FCC’s 700MHz auction, in association with venture capital firm Northwood Ventures.

In one of the auction’s biggest surprises, registered bidder Verizon Wireless opted not to bid on a single licence. Other notable non-bidders, meanwhile, include Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC, Claro) and TeleGuam Holdings (GTA). Indeed, bidding in the unincorporated US territories remained muted, with DOCOMO Pacific – which operates in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands – acquiring just six licences, paying USD3.0 million.

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