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Spectrum Auction Concludes: $19.6B

3/21/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern

The FCC concluded its auction of the 700-megahertz spectrum, raising $19.6 billion, far beyond the commission's wildest expectations. The commission also insisted that the process will expand wireless competition. While large telcos AT&T and Verizon Communications scooped up prime chunks of real estate in the auction's B and C blocks, some new players emerged as winners, too. A complete list of winners is available online at wireless.fcc.gov/auctions.

The FCC stressed that a bidder "other than a nationwide incumbent"—that means other than Verizon or AT&T—won a license in every market, and 99 such bidders won 754 licenses representing 69% of the 1,090 licenses sold. EchoStar Communications-backed Frontier Wireless, which won 168 licenses in the E-block for a near-nationwide footprint, was touted by the FCC as "a new entrant" in the wireless business.

But big players did well. AT&T noted that the 700-MHz spectrum it picked up in the B block, combined with 700-MHz spectrum it already acquired from Aloha Partners last fall, will give it 100% coverage of the top 200 markets.

Smaller companies showed a particular interest in rural areas, where the FCC has been trying to encourage more broadband access. A total of 75 new entrants won licenses to serve 305 rural areas out of 428 rural-service-area licenses.

The one unsuccessful part of the 700-MHz auction was the D-block—a portion of the spectrum that was intended to be used primarily for public-safety applications and shared by private companies and public-safety organizations. The commission is officially "delinking" the D-block from the rest of the 700-MHz spectrum blocks, which will allow it to revive the auction under new rules.

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