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FCC's 700 MHz Spectrum Draws 266 Prospective Bidders

Google has attracted the most attention among the bidders because the search engine company has called for 'open' use of spectrum.

Prospective bidders in the FCC's upcoming 700-MHz spectrum auction are jockeying for position in the Jan. 24 bidding contest as 266 applicants have filed to participate.

Filing Tuesday were the usual suspects, including AT&T, Cablevision, Google, MetroPCS Wireless, Qualcomm, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless,. Some of the applicants -- like AT&T -- already have significant holdings in the 700-MHz band, while many others are unlikely to bid.

Although Cablevision has applied to bid, its cable competitor Comcast has said it has no plans to bid.

Many of the companies are eyeing the prime broadband spectrum in the so-called "C-block" -- the most highly valued slice of the 700-MHz frequencies, and the one that falls under the open-access requirements issued by the FCC.

Google has attracted the most attention among the bidders because the search engine company has called for "open" use of spectrum. The proposal would give different software and hardware providers the ability to use the spectrum to offer a variety of inexpensive and interchangeable products to consumers. Although it's taking an open stance for usage, Google has said it will not bid in partnership with other companies in the auction.

Following Google's push for open spectrum, AT&T and Verizon Wireless said they will open their networks to third parties. Google's unveiling of its Android platform also has fostered new interest in interchangeable software and hardware for wireless mobile phone networks.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has filed through his Vulcan Spectrum limited partnership. Allen is a player in cable through Charter Communications, which is majority-owned by his Vulcan Capital unit. Microsoft didn't file directly for the auction. The company has backed a plan to participate in wireless services through so-called "white spaces" spectrum offerings -- the spaces between the broadcast channels, and is part of the White Spaces Coalition, along with Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Philips, EarthLink, and Samsung Electro-Mechanics.

The auction is expected to bring some $15 billion into the U.S. Treasury.

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