Bids In: Verizon and AT&T Big Winners

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The FCC ended bidding for the 700 megahertz spectrum yesterday. Verizon Communications and AT&T won the largest shares of the spectrum after 260 rounds of bidding. The FCC raised $19.12 billion from bidders. Verizon and AT&T won more than $16 billion worth of licenses, airwaves they plan to use to for voice, data services and new wireless technologies.

Frontier Wireless, a partner of DISH Network, spent $711 million to buy a part of the airwaves that leaves open the possibility of a nationwide video network.

Verizon outbid Google and won the biggest nationwide block of spectrum with a bid of $4.74 billion. This loss by Google puts to rest speculation that Google will jump into the wireless business any time soon. But the company sees the auction as a victory for Google. The bidding was high enough to trigger the “open-platform” rules it requested for the nationwide airwaves won by Verizon.

Google called it a victory for American consumers. “Consumers soon should begin enjoying new, Internet-like freedom to get the most out of their mobile phones and other wireless devices,” said a statement from Google lawyers Richard Whitt and Joseph Faber.

AT&T won 227 regional licenses. These should fit in well with the piece of spectrum it acquired by buying Aloha Partners for $2.5 billion.

“AT&T’s strong spectrum holdings position the company to further enhance the quality and reliability of existing wireless broadband and voice services, and to set the foundation for new-generation wireless broadband technologies and services,” Ralph de la Vega, head of AT&T’s wireless unit, said in a statement.

Verizon spent $9.63 billion at the auction. AT&T was second with a total of $6.64 billion spent.

The FCC set aside the D block of the spectrum because no one met the minimum bid required. The D block must be shared with public agencies like police and fire departments that have overriding usage in an emergency. It is speculated that the FCC will re-auction the D block with rules that make it more attractive to buyers.

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