AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Comcast, DISH in, Sprint, Charter out of spectrum auction

16 July 2016 by Steve Blum
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Sixty-two companies made down payments and qualified for participation in the first buy round of bidding for up to 100 MHz of UHF spectrum currently held by television stations. The Federal Communications Commission released the list yesterday, along with instructions and a schedule for practice rounds of bidding and the auction itself, which will begin on 16 August 2016. The goal is to clear a total of 126 MHz of spectrum, with 100 MHz going to mobile broadband assignments and the remainder used for unlicensed service and guard bands.

Three out of the four major U.S. mobile telephone are taking part. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all qualified. Sprint previously said it would pass on the opportunity.

Pay television companies are getting into the act, too. Comcast – via its CC Wireless Investment, LLC arm – is a qualified bidder. In the past week, Comcast has raised its wireless business profile by creating a mobile division, according to a story in Multichannel News. DISH Networks is on the list, via Wireless. The direct broadcast satellite company might or might not have mobile broadband ambitions, though – its founder and chairman Charlie Ergen has a decades-long habit of investing in spectrum as a standalone asset. Charter is out of the picture though, as is its corporate Svengali, John Malone and, in this case, Liberty Spectrum.

Most of the rest appear to be regional and/or rural operations, and likely a few pure speculators. One interesting name on the list is DoCoMo Pacific, a subsidiary of Japan’s largest mobile company, NTT DoCoMo.