Gearing Up For The 700 MHz Auction


Thursday sees the start of the 700 MHz auction in the US, but there’s not going to be much news coming out until it’s finished — the FCC is keeping it as secret as possible. There’ll probably be a fair bit of analysis though, since the auction has the potential to change the US wireless landscape dramatically — or not, depending on how it goes. The big questions are how Google (NSDQ: GOOG) plans to bid for the C Block, and whether the D Block (with its requirement to build a network to share with first responders) will reach the reserve price.

Reuters has a fairly complete piece on the auction, detailing what’s happening and who’s involved. It also quotes analysts saying that Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) is the most likely winner of the C Block spectrum because it needs the additional spectrum more than other large carriers…and Google is widely expected to bid to get the block past the reserve and the open-access conditions, but not much higher.

Popular Mechanics has a good technical piece explaining why the spectrum is good for voice networks, but not necessarily for data networks. “Lower frequencies travel farther but they inherently carry less data, having lower so-called spectral efficiency”, which raises the question of why Google is interested in the spectrum, considering it is likely angling for a data network. “This 700-MHz auction is the only one available, so Google appears to be going for it. Having obtained some concessions from the FCC, Google apparently feels bound to bid at least the minimum $4.6 billion for one block of spectrum known as the C Block.” The write thinks Google will bid to win for the block, and then try a spectrum swap with Sprint (NYSE: S) for its contentious WiMax network spectrum.

RCR News has a piece on the effect of the current credit crunch and Wall Street crisis on the auction, raising doubts as to whether the reserve price for some blocks will be met.

Finally, Silicon Alley Insider has a “Cliff Notes” on the auction, boiling it down to its simplest elements.

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