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FCC’s First Incentive Auction Has Begun

Randy Sukow / Mar 30, 2016

As of 6 p.m. last night, the FCC’s Incentive Auction process has begun. But bidding on actual licenses for specific geographic areas could still be weeks or months away. This is the first auction of its kind where TV broadcasters have declared their intent to participate in a reverse auction for portions of their 6 MHz allotments. The results of the reverse auction will determine what licenses will be available for mobile broadband carriers in the later forward auction.

“If broadband Internet service is an engine for economic growth, then mobile broadband has been its booster rocket, creating a platform for innovation, competition and new markets. The Incentive Auction promises to free up more capacity to meet Americans’ skyrocketing demand for wireless data while preserving the valuable service that broadcast TV stations provide to their communities,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement marking the beginning of the auction.

Analysts have offered a wide range of forecasts for how much revenue the auction will eventually attract for the valuable low-frequency (600 MHz) spectrum, from $30 billion to $60 billion. Complexity and uncertainty connected to the incentive auction rules could drive revenues below the record $45 billion in the higher-band AWS-3 auction in 2015.

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