FCC Lays Out Dates, Valuations for Upcoming Spectrum Auctions

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  December 29, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission in mid October, as this issue was heading to press, provided new details about the upcoming spectrum auctions, which will provide cellular service providers and others with the ability to acquire more spectrum by offering to take this valuable asset off the hands of broadcasters. The auctions will consist of both a reverse auction, in which broadcasters will be able to sell their spectrum to the FCC (News - Alert), and a forward auction, in which all comers will be invited to bid for that newly available spectrum.

The FCC on Oct. 15 circulated a document that lays out opening bid prices for the reverse auction, as well as the filing application windows for both the reverse auction (to participate broadcasters must file their applications between Dec. 1 and Dec. 18) and the forward auction (to participate bidders much file between Jan. 14 and Jan. 28).

Opening bid prices, of course, vary by market, but senior FCC officials revealed during an Oct. 16 press conference said the high (in New York) for the reverse auction is $900 million; this is consistent with previous information out of the commission. The lows, in the couple of hundreds of thousands of dollars, are for various markets in the West, FCC spokespeople noted.

Binding commitments from broadcasters will be made by March 29, 2016, according to the FCC. Within a few weeks of that the FCC with set a clearing target and band plan, then the reverse auction will commence and will run for 52 rounds, which will go on for an unspecified amount of time. The forward auction will then begin. The whole auction process is expected to be complete in the second or third quarter of next year.

“For potential Incentive Auction participants, today is a watershed moment,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (News - Alert) commented. “For all practical purposes, we’ve fired the starting gun: the release of final opening bid prices – combined with the detailed application procedures and other data released yesterday – provides broadcasters with all of the information they need to decide whether to apply to participate in the auction. Stations that miss the Dec. 18 deadline will not be able to participate in this historic auction. Commission staff stand[s] ready to educate and assist applicants as they prepare.”

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere