Internet-search giant Google confirmed that it will bid in the Federal Communications Commission's upcoming auction of wireless spectrum that is being reclaimed from broadcasters as part of the digital-TV transition.
Google said it will file a formal application with the FCC Monday to participate in the 700-megahertz auction, which begins Jan. 24. The company added that it will not be joined by any partners in its bid.
Google had previously expressed interest in the 700-MHz spectrum, which is expected to draw fierce bidding from telcos and Internet companies because of its strong signal-propagation characteristics. It has successfully lobbied the FCC to make sure that whomever wins the "C-block" portion of the spectrum (at a reserve price of $4.6 billion) will allow open software applications to be downloaded to mobile devices and that consumers will be able to use mobile devices of their choice to access the spectrum.
Google has been pushing for such open-platform applications on wireless devices as part its broader mobile strategy, and it helped to form a group of some 30 technology and mobile companies called the Open Handset Alliance to foster the idea of creating software applications that can work on a variety of wireless networks and mobile handsets.
Some telecommunications analysts have suggested that Google's early interest in the 700-MHz auction was simply designed to ensure that whichever telco won the spectrum would be forced to make part of its network open to the new software applications -- and business models -- Google is creating for mobile phones, and that Google wasn't really interested in actually owning and managing its own national wireless network.
"We believe it's important to put our money where our principles are," Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said in a statement. "Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today's wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet."
Whatever the strategy, the news of Google's bid plans got the thumbs up from open access fans at Free Press.
"Google’s intent to bid in the 700 Mhz auction and Verizon’s sudden support for open networks suggest that we may finally see the competitive wireless marketplace that consumers demand,” said Free Press policy director Ben Scott.