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FCC 700 MHz Auction Tops $18.8 Billion

The federal agency also announced it has approved AT&T's purchase of 700 MHz licenses from Aloha Partners.
More than $18.8 billion has been bid in the FCC's 700 MHz auction as of Monday, comfortably passing early estimates that the auction would attract $10 billion in offers.

Spirited bidding continued for regional licenses, although offers appeared to have permanently dried up for the nationwide C Block license package and the D Block combination commercial-public safety spectrum.

Meanwhile, the FCC announced that it has approved AT&T's $2.5 billion purchase of licenses for 12 MHz in the 700-MHz band from Aloha Partners. The spectrum covers 196 million Americans in 72 of the top 100 U.S. markets and would likely give AT&T a lead in rolling out wireless services in the band.

As long as lively bidding continues for regional licenses, the auction will continue. The identity of the bidders -- more than 200 were qualified to compete in the auction -- will be kept secret until the auction concludes. However, there has been widespread speculation that Google and Verizon Wireless were competing for the nationwide C Block spectrum, which includes a segment that's planned to offer the capability of embracing the easy accessibility of multiple devices and services.

The D Block has been more or less dead on arrival as the lone bid of $472 million for the block is too low to trigger the $1.3 billion reserve set for the band by the FCC; it could be reauctioned with a new set of rules.

Spectrum analyst Joe Nordgaard, managing director of wireless consulting firm Spectral Analysis, theorizes that AT&T has been buying some B Block spectrum and lesser amounts of A Block spectrum to make its Aloha spectrum purchase more efficient.

The FCC's approval of the AT&T purchase drew a dissenting statement from commissioner Michael J. Copps, who called the decision a "rush to judgment." In a statement, Copps said, "Because today's hasty decision seems destined to reduce competition and diversity in the wireless marketplace, and because I see little demonstration of countervailing benefits and precious little serious analysis of any sort, I must respectfully dissent."

Commissioner Jonathan A. Adelstein concurred with the FCC order but said he was concerned about some issues surrounding AT&T's acquisition, including whether AT&T could obtain a disproportionate share of spectrum. Adelstein noted there was no public opposition to AT&T's acquiring the spectrum.

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