The auction that won't end

With $45B in the bids, FCC 4G auction goes on holiday hiatus

It’s been more than a month, but the FCC’s auction of 4G airwaves is still chugging along to the surprise of many mobile industry watchers. With $44.5 billion in bids in 139 rounds so far submitted, the Federal Communications Commission is shutting the auction down for the holidays, with plans to pick back up on January 5.

The auction has already raised many multiples of its reserve price and gone on far longer than expected, though to be honest there hasn’t been much actual activity for some time. The competition for the big metro city licenses is over (though we won’t know who the actual high bidders are until the auction concludes), leaving carriers to fight over airwaves in smaller markets.

“The auction has basically ended, rising less than $10 million per round in primarily small markets as no top 25 market has received a new bid in over 20 rounds,” BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk said.

The FCC has been trying to hurry the final bidders along by quickening the pace of the rounds. We’re now seeing eight rounds a day, and starting next year it may add even more. When the last bid is placed, the FCC will finally reveal the provisional winning bidders and they’re likely to be some familiar names: [company]AT&T[/company], [company]Verizon[/company] and [company]T-Mobile[/company]. Still there are 70 total bidders, including [company]Dish Network[/company], so we may see some surprises.