FCC's Spectrum Auction Heads to Round 20

Bidders still one-upping in smaller markets

It was on to round 20 for the FCC's spectrum auction as bidders in round 19 of stage four of the forward auction continued to vie for spectrum blocks in smaller markets, pushing the total to $18,715,312,391, up $21 million from $18,694,030,387 in round 18.

The auction has already met its two key clearing targets and broadcasters already know how much they are getting: about $10 billion, so the auction will end at the end of the current forward auction stage.

But the auction can't close until there is no more bidding in any of the 416 markets. Among the markets where bidding continued in round 19 were Owensboro, Ky.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Hannibal, Mo.

On Wednesday, the FCC is increasing its asking price for each round to 10% above the previous price—it has been increasing it by 5%—to try and speed bidders to a conclusion.

The forward auction is a clock auction in which the FCC raises the price in each round until demand does not exceed supply in each round.

At that point the auction will close and a second auction will be held among winning bidders to assign specific frequencies.

Forward auction bidders are vying for 10 MHz blocks of spectrum, seven per market in 416 markets (actually the spectrum is allocated to geographic areas called partial economic areas (PEAs), with some markets having more than one PEA.