FCC's Spectrum Auction Just Keeps on Going

FCC to increase number of rounds and shorten them to help speed to conclusion

Round 34 of stage four—the last stage—of the forward portion of the incentive auction continued to edge up as bidders pushed the total to $19,354,875,595, up about $27 million from round 33's $19,327,314,729 last Friday. Round 33 was up about $30 million from round 32, an afternoon round on Friday.

Last week the auction became the second largest FCC auction in revenue—the AWS-3 wireless auction remains the undisputed leader at $40 billion-plus—but the total is still below most pre-auction estimates.

The FCC will boost the number of rounds this week to try and speed the process to a conclusion so it can start repacking broadcasters into new spectrum space and eventually turn over the spectrum to winning forward auction bidders.

Broadcasters won't be getting any of the excess auction cash beyond their $10 billion payout, but the treasury will after the FCC deducts $1.9 billion for auction expenses and a transition fund for broadcasters repacking into smaller spectrum space after the auction.

The auction can't close until there is no more bidding in any of the 416 markets, which is not yet the case.

To try and move the auction to a close, the FCC said that starting Feb. 8, it will up the number of bidding rounds per day from four to six and shorten them from an hour to 40 minutes, with only 20 minutes between rounds rather than an hour.

On Feb. 8, the first round will be from 10 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., with the next round beginning 20 minutes later (at 11 a.m.) and so on—with a 1-2 p.m. lunch break—to the end of round six at 4:40 p.m.