The second major forward phase of the broadcast incentive spectrum auction by US telecoms and broadcast regulator the FCC has come to a close.
The FCC is carrying out an incentive auction of unused analogue TV spectrum, left over from the digital TV transition. The hope is to free up more spectrum for 4G/5G and advanced wireless services, like mobile video.
The two-sided auction for the spectrum was meant to pay broadcasters a fair value for their assets before selling them to the highest-bidding mobile carriers.
After months of action, bids from spectrum hunters have totalled $19.63 billion for 70 MHz of spectrum sold by broadcasters in an earlier, reverse auction phase.
Now follows a smaller assignment phase that could bring some extra funds as bidders aim for more specific frequencies in markets. But with the auction largely complete, the US Treasury will get about $7 billion for deficit reduction.
Once the assignment phase ends (in two to three weeks), the FCC will reveal complete bid winners from the auction. Broadcasters from the reverse auction are free to talk about the winnings publicly, while forward participants must remain silent for now.
Those broadcasters that chose not to participate will have their spectrum 'repacked' into other bands to protect their signals from neighbouring interference and ensure uninterrupted TV service. The FCC has proposed setting aside up to two UHF channels in every US TV market for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed wireless services as well, but this so-called ‘vacant channel’ effort has been controversial, as it takes valuable real estate away from low-power TV stations (LPTVs) looking to find new homes after the agency’s repacking, broadcasters have argued.