Spectrum Auction: Price Ticks Up in Round 26

Increases by about $43 million

The FCC's spectrum auction shows no signs of winding down quite yet.

In the most recent round (26) of stage four of the forward portion of the auction, bidders bid up the total by about $43 million to $19,081,165,426 versus $19,038,558,451 in round 25, and demand continued to surpass supply in some smaller markets.

Broadcasters won't be getting any of the excess 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 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. The difference between that $10 billion payout, plus $1.9 billion for auction expenses and TV station post-auction relocation, will go to the treasury.

The auction can't close until there is no more bidding in any of the 416 markets, which is not yet the case. In fact, in round 26 there were bids for 10 blocks with only four available, and in Redding, Calif., there were 17 bids for seven blocks.

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. As of Feb. 1, the FCC bumped up its per-round price increase from 5% over the previous price to 10%.

Once the main auction closes, a second auction will be held among winning bidders to assign specific frequencies.