Cable/Satellite Players Eye Wireless Spectrum


Some big cable and wireless players have ponied up big bucks to bid on big chunks of spectrum going up for FCC auction Aug. 9 in its advanced wireless services auction.

Some 1,200-plus licenses, reclaimed from government use, are up for grabs, enough to build a national network. The auction will likely take up to six or eight weeks to complete. Most of the big wireless players are in the mix--Sprint, T-Mobile, Cingular, and Verizon.

The cable industry, which is already delivering video, Voice over IP phone service, and Internet access, is looking to add wireless service to its bundle, the so-called quadruple play--as it prepares for increased competition from the phone companies in its video space.

The satellite industry would also like to be able to boost its bundling potential, which is now often simply co-branding or marketing deals with other service providers.

There were 168 bidders who qualified, putting up billions in upfront money in order to bid. The auction will not be blind, meaning the public will get to track the high bidders in each round of bidding.

While the bidders are not identified by the consortia of companies behind many of them, according to financial analyst Raymond James Financial, the cable/satellite bidders with the largest upfront payments included DirecTV/EchoStar/Liberty, $972,546,000, and the Dolan Family Holdings (the family of Charles Dolan, Cablevision chairman), at $149,983,000.

Not on the Raymond James list were Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, and Advance/Newhouse, which have been part of a wireless joint venture that was eyeing the spectrum as well.