FCC Approves 214 Bidders For Wireless Auction

The commission said more than 50 prospective early applicants have dropped out of the Jan. 24 auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz band.
The Federal Communications Commission has released bidding rules (pdf) for the January 24 700 MHz auction. It also reported that more than 50 prospective early applicants have dropped out, while 214 bidders have been qualified for the auction.

The major qualified bidders (pdf) include familiar American business names like Google, under the name Google Airwaves, AT&T Mobility Spectrum, Verizon Wireless, Alltel, Chevron, Cincinnati Bell Wireless, Cox Wireless, and Qualcomm.

Among the missing is Frontline Wireless, which couldn't raise enough capital to participate in the auction. The startup firm, which included a roster of big-name venture capitalists and politically-connected individuals, had hoped to create a national public safety network.

"The commission will conduct this auction over the Internet, and telephone bidding will be available as well," the FCC stated in its review of the rules. "Qualified bidders are permitted to bid telephonically or electronically." Participants are required to have two RSA SecurID tokens for the auction.

The FCC said a mock auction will be held on January 22, two days before the real event gets underway. Like the actual auction, participants can bid in the mock auction over the Internet or via telephone.

Many smaller companies have filed to participate. They range from rural telephone cooperatives like Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative and Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative to remote companies like Guam Cellular & Paging. One bidder, Xanadoo 700 MHz DE, LLC, already has some 700 MHz spectrum and will be looking to pick up more in the auction. Xanadoo also is interesting because it has already rolled out a Mobile WiMax network in Texas and Oklahoma that serves several thousand subscribers.

But most attention will be focused on Google, whose actions through its Android Open Handset Alliance are already threatening to change the makeup of U.S. wireless communications. The search engine colossus has been promoting what it calls a philosophy of "openness" that it claims will make it easier and cheaper for consumers to share wireless devices and services. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have recently pledged to open up their networks for more devices.

Some large cable and telecom companies, including Comcast, Sprint, and T-Mobile, said they don't plan to bid in the auction.

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