Wireless Spectrum Bidders Put Down Billions


The FCC just released a list of 168 qualified bidders for the AWS spectrum auction coming up on August 9th, and also announced that the process will not involve the controversial blind bidding. We’ve been following the companies interested in bidding pretty closely, and there were a few surprises in the FCC filings, including a group tied to Rupert Murdoch, DirecTV and Echostar, which put down almost a billion dollars that it can use to bid on spectrum.

Wireless DBS, the consortium tied to Echostar, DirecTV, News Corp, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and Echostar’s Charles Ergen, qualified to bid and paid one of the largest upfront payments out of the list of interested bidders, of $972.55 million. The group’s auction plans might involve WiMAX, and prove to be crucial to these companies future as triple play becomes common place. (The upfront payment is refundable if the company doesn’t win the specturm it desires, but could be an indicator of how much the companies are willing to spend.)

The cable consortium SpectrumCo, tied to cable companies Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner Cable and Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts, among others, qualified to bid and put down another large upfront payment of $637.71 million. Other cable groups like the Washington Post’s Cable One qualified and paid an upfront payment of $3.5 million. The Dolan Family, tied to Charles Dolan, Cablevision’s Chairman, qualified and paid an upfront fee of $149.98 million.

Most of the largest U.S. phone companies qualified. T-Mobile paid an upfront fee of $583.52 million, Cingular put down $500 million, and a company tied to Verizon paid an upfront fee of $383.34 million.

The company tied to Paul Allen, Bend Cable Communications, that we previously profiled, qualified to bid, and paid an upfront fee of $176,000. At least four companies backed by spectrum speculator “Super Mario” Gabelli qualified to bid, paid a total of $3 million in upfront payments. Controversial wireless bidder Allen Salmasi and Nextwave Telecom, qualified to bid through a company called AWS Wireless, and that group put down $142.83 million.

The group called POP Wireless, backed by BPL company Current Communications, which is funded by Google and Earthlink, that we profiled earlier, was listed as “not qualified to bid.” We’ll follow up with more on the upcoming auction before the big day.



So, what exactly IS on auction? Nice to read all those numbers (sounds like the UMTS auction’s here in Europe, which costed billions to the telco’s). But, how much spectrum, what can be done with it (restrictions), what frequency (some are better than others in terms of coverage and/or bandwidth) and so on.
1 Billion is not THAT much if one can build a US-nationwide wireless network that supports millions of users and has some bandwith for each to spare.
This is quite a simple calculation, of:
frequency range * bits/Hz (up to around 5, with modern techniques) /bandwith per user * numbers of users.

So, what exactly IS on auction here?

John Thacker

“Small companies have no way to participate? sad.”

Well, the FCC has tried to reserve spectrum for small companies before. What happened is exactly what you might expect– either small companies or entrepeneurs that are really sock puppets for big companies, or small companies and entrepeneurs whose entire business plan is to sell out to the big companies for the prices that the FCC could have charged the big companies.

Spectrum is expensive, and trying to reserve it doesn’t really work.


This game is for Papa Bear and Mama Bear. Baby bear will have to lease or buy from mom and dad.

Jacob Varghese

This process only seems to been open to large companies.
Small companies have no way to participate? sad.
I realize that this is a major source of funds for the govt, but shouldn’t there be an avenue for small companies or entrepeneurs to get to play?


Place another STAKE in the Heart of the RBOC Dinosaur
Wimax VOIP is a nuke=====putting FEAR into the Cellular World

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