FCC aims to auction H Block spectrum as soon as January

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The FCC said in a public notice that it could be ready to auction the 1900 MHz PCS H Block of spectrum as soon as January 2014, its first major spectrum auction since 2008. The commission is seeking public comment on its proposed rules for the auction, which could draw interest from Sprint (NYSE:S), Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) and others.

The FCC said the auction, which will be designated Auction 96, will be held "by or as early as January 14, 2014." The auction could take place by that date or sometime thereafter. The FCC said comments on the auction rules are due on or before Aug. 5, and reply comments are due on or before Aug. 16. Last month the FCC voted to approve draft rules for the auction.

The H Block is a 10 MHz block of paired airwaves that runs from 1915-1920 MHz (for the uplink) and from 1995-2000 MHz (for the downlink). The H Block is part of 65 MHz of spectrum Congress mandated the FCC to auction by February 2015. As Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted last month, of the 65 MHz that has been identified, the H Block is the only block that is paired and not in use by government agencies, so revenue generated from the auction of the H Block will not have to be used to pay government users to move off the spectrum.

The spectrum will be auctioned in 176 individual Economic Areas across the country. In its public notice, the FCC is asking for comment on what the reserve price should be as well as the minimum opening bids.

Sprint has repeatedly expressed its interest in bidding for the H Block and using the spectrum to enhance its LTE service. Dish, which controls spectrum adjacent to a portion of the H Block, could also bid for the spectrum.

Republic FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement that he hopes the auction will be conducted quickly. "The sooner we get the currently fallow H Block spectrum into the commercial marketplace, the sooner it can be used to deliver bandwidth-intensive mobile services and applications, and the sooner the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will receive its initial infusion of funds from auction revenues," he said. "Of course, getting the auction rules and procedures right is extremely important. I encourage commenters to provide comprehensive feedback so that there is a robust record upon which to issue final auction procedures, and I hope that we will commence the H Block auction on January 14, 2014."

For more:
- see this FCC page
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article

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