On April 13, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced completion of the broadcast incentive auction, which raised $19.8 billion in gross revenue for 70 MHz of mobile spectrum and 14 MHz for wireless microphones and unlicensed use. During the next 39 months, the broadcast stations using the spectrum will move to new channel assignments, freeing the frequencies for mobile use. According to a press release by the FCC, the auction — authorized by Congress in 2012 and begun on March 29, 2016 — was among the highest grossing conducted by the commission.
The broadcast incentive auction comprised two separate, interdependent auctions: 1) a reverse auction, which determined the price at which broadcasters would voluntarily relinquish their spectrum rights and 2) a forward auction, which determined the price wireless carriers would pay for mobile licenses. The reverse and the forward auctions are aligned with a “repacking” process that reorganizes and assigns channels to the remaining broadcast TV stations to create contiguous blocks of cleared spectrum for mobile use.
In the “forward” auction, wireless carriers bid $19.8 billion to gain 70 MHz of mobile broadband spectrum, 35 MHz between 663 and 698 MHz for the uplink and 35 MHz between 617 and 652 MHz for the downlink. Below 1 GHz, 70 MHz is the most mobile spectrum auctioned nationwide by the FCC. 50 bidders won licensed spectrum nationwide, the largest being T-Mobile, Dish, Comcast and US Cellular. The full list is here.
More than $10 billion of the gross revenue will go to 175 winning broadcasters that elected to participate in the incentive auction and repurpose their airwaves. Of the winners, 30 stations will receive money to move to a lower channel and 133 others will relinquish their licenses, indicating their intent to remain on air through channel-sharing agreements with non-winning stations. The broadcasters who won the auction are listed here. The FCC also announced new channel assignments and effective dates of those assignments for the 957 non-winning stations that must change channels to clear the new wireless spectrum.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “The conclusion of the world’s first incentive auction is a major milestone in the FCC’s long history as steward of the nation’s airwaves. Consumers are the real beneficiaries, as broadcasters invest new resources in programming and service, and additional wireless spectrum opens the way to greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace.”
More information is available at The Broadcast Incentive Auction results on Spectrum Gateway.