$19.8 billion airwaves auction may mean better cell service

Posted April 15, 2017

"The FCC and Congress should be commended for facilitating this first-of-its-kind auction and ensuring that competitive carriers were able to acquire additional spectrum to serve rural and remote areas of the United States", said CCA President Steven K. Berry.

NEW YORK-T-Mobile was the big victor in the recently concluded TV spectrum incentive auction, followed by Dish and Comcast, according to Marci Ryvicker, senior analyst at Wells Fargo, commenting on the auction results released today by the Federal Communications Commission. Dish (dish) won second-most licenses, spending $6.2 billion for 486 blocks of airwaves. Sprint (s) did not participate in the auction from the outset. Comcast plans to offer wireless service by June to its home Internet customers by reselling Verizon Wireless data, but it could use the new spectrum to boost coverage later on. Lower-frequency signals travel much better over distance, and penetrate buildings much better.

T-Mobile will be utilizing the spectrum later this year in parts of the country. The company says some of its new spectrum will be usable though, by T-Mobile as well as its subsidiary MetroPCS.

Among the individual winning stations, WWTO-TV in Chicago received the largest amount of compensation at more than $304 million. The auction, which began a year ago, was conducted over two major stages. In 2014, when the FCC made a decision to auction off the spectrum that was previously used for broadcast TV, they chose to set aside 30MHz of the available 70MHz specifically for carriers that did not now have large holdings in low-band spectrum. The government later sold the spectrum in a so-called forward auction to wireless providers.

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T-Mobile talks a big game as it seeks to stand out as competition for what it calls the "duopoly" of AT&T and Verizon.

The new spectrum represents T-Mobile's biggest investment in its history. In 2011, those companies sold the spectrum to Verizon for $3.6 billion in return for the rights to resell Verizon's network under their own brands.

Comcast, meanwhile, will likely use the spectrum to bulk up a wireless service it is scheduled to launch later this year. An FCC spokesman declined to comment on when the results will be announced. The former already owns plenty of unused spectrum, while the latter just partnered with Verizon on its own MVNO-based mobile network, and doesn't have enough 600MHz spectrum to augment it. Dish declined to comment. "The faster the repacking process takes place, clearing this fresh spectrum to be put into service, the sooner we see the true benefits of this historic auction".