02:11 PM

Open Wireless Access Assured On 700 MHz Spectrum

An anonymous bidder exceeded the reserve price in the nationwide wireless spectrum auction Thursday.

U.S. mobile phone users are assured of being able to use any device or application on a network based on the nationwide C-Block of 700-MHz spectrum, which passed its reserve price of $4.64 billion Thursday.

The move also paves the way for search engine Google to play a bigger role in the growth of wireless technology. Google had successfully lobbied the FCC to set aside a portion of the C-Block for open-access usage in which multiple devices and software-based applications could be available to consumers.

The reserve was triggered in the 17th round of bidding Thursday when a participant offered $4.71 billion for the nationwide C-Block. The identity of all bidders is secret, in keeping with new FCC rules for the auction. Much speculation, however, has centered on Google and Verizon Wireless as likely bidders for the valuable spectrum.

The fact that a commercial future for C-Block is assured also raises the possibility that a company that loses the C-Block bid might step up and bid on the stalled D-Block, which has been slated for dual commercial-public safety use.

At the same time, bidding for regional 700-MHz licenses is continuing briskly as competing bidders vie for 700-MHz pieces large and small. Bids have ranged from highs of hundreds of millions of dollars in the New York City area to $5,000 for a license in Aberdeen, S.D.

More than 200 companies were cleared to bid in the auction, which has an open-ended timetable. The names of the winning bidders will be released when the auction concludes.

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