FCC Speeding Up Spectrum Auction Dec. 19

But auction will extend at least into January

Starting Monday, Dec. 19, bidding in stage four of the reverse portions of broadcast incentive auction will increase from two rounds to three.

In the reverse auction, broadcasters compete to give up spectrum for an FCC payout. When that payout number is established, stage four of the forward auction begins, where wireless bidders have to at least meet that figure.

Bidding in stage four of the reverse auction began Dec. 13 with two one-hour rounds at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. As of Monday, an additional 1 p.m. round will be added.

Even at that sped-up rate, the auction will only make it to round 22 (or not yet half over if past is prologue) by Dec. 23, when bidding suspends after two rounds for the holidays until January.

At that rate, the auction will likely not be over until after FCC chairman Tom Wheeler exits Jan. 20.

As of stage three, broadcasters' exit figure and wireless operators' bid for that spectrum remained far apart—about $20 billion.