Dish Network is spending around $10 billion to acquire a wide range of spectrum licenses in the FCC's now-completed AWS-3 spectrum auction. That spectrum, combined with the wide-ranging spectrum licenses that Dish already owns, will turn Charlie Ergen's company into a spectrum powerhouse. But it's still not clear what Ergen's Dish is going to do with all of its airwaves.
The FCC has revealed the identities of the winning bidders in the AWS-3 spectrum, and AT&T was the biggest bidder, with close to $18.2 billion in provisionally winning bids, roughly in line with analysts' expectations. Verizon Wireless wound up bidding $10.43 billion, less than many analysts had expected (most had expected Verizon to bid $15 billion to $20 billion).
Now that the AWS-3 spectrum auction is officially concluded, with nearly $44.9 billion in provisional winning bids, speculation is beginning in earnest over how much wireless carriers bid for the airwaves--and what will come next.
The FCC said bidding in the AWS-3 spectrum auction, known as auction 97, is now closed after 341 rounds of bidding. Total provisional winning bids came in at a record $44.899 billion. That's far more money than the FCC raised in its previous spectrum auctions.
The FCC said it has closed bidding on paired spectrum in the AWS-3 spectrum auction, the clearest sign yet that bidding is drawing to a close.
AT&T's disclosure that it entered into credit agreements worth more than $11 billion has prompted some financial analysts to think that the company may wind up buying more airwaves at the AWS-3 spectrum auction than Verizon Wireless, spending anywhere from $20 billion to $22 billion at the auction.
The FCC's AWS-3 spectrum auction is nearing the bitter end, with total provisional winning bids topping $44.68 billion and unlikely to go much higher. Now, attention is turning to what will happen once the auction officially closes--and how carriers will come up with the money to cover their bids.
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Dish Network could become a wholesale wireless capacity provider, perhaps in partnership with Sprint, and its spectrum could well be worth more in that scenario than it would be if Dish sold the airwaves, according to a new report from financial analysts. Such an arrangement could eventually net Dish around $10 billion in revenue per year, according to the analysts.
The market continues to undervalue Dish Network's spectrum holdings, and Dish will continue to be part of M&A discussions through 2015, according to a report from by Jefferies analysts. The massive bids in the ongoing AWS-3 spectrum auction are contributing to the situation, they added.