Round Four: FCC's Spectrum Auction Cracks $10 Billion

Supply still outstripping demand in early rounds

With round four drawing to a close, the FCC's forward spectrum auction has now attracted $10,133,070,000 worth of bids, up over $400 million from the $9,700,723,000 bid in the previous round.

There are 62 eligible bidders and 416 geographic areas with spectrum blocks reclaimed from broadcasters and being auctioned for wireless broadband.

The auction began Aug. 16 and will likely run at least several weeks and possibly several months.

The FCC's asking price for one of the four partial economic areas (PEAs) it has assigned licenses in top market New York was $148,838,000 in round three and was bumped up to $156,280,000 in round four. The FCC is increasing the price by 5% in each round ($164,094,000 in round six in New York, for example). So far demand has exceeded supply in most of the largest markets, but the majority of markets have yet to see more bids than blocks of spectrum available.

Currently American Samoa is the only spectrum with no bids.

The FCC will need at least $88,379,558,704 to cover the cost of 1) paying broadcasters for their 126 MHz worth of spectrum, 2) paying them to move off that spectrum, and 3) paying for the auction itself. The bidding also has to meet certain price benchmarks in the top 40 PEAs if the FCC is to close the auction.

The actual bid total in round four that applies toward that $88,379,558,704 is $9,620,000,000, net of bidding credits and discounts that reduced the total by about a half a billion dollars. The net figure for round three was $9,210,000,000.

The FCC is currently holding two, two-hour rounds per day but could speed the pace at any time to boost bidding.