Charter Communications is the latest cable company to take a lukewarm view of the FCC's upcoming 600 MHz spectrum auction, saying it's unlikely to participate. Like some other wireline service providers, Charter had been seen as a potential dark horse to leverage the spectrum sale to elbow its way into the mobile market.
Comcast confirmed that it plans to participate in forward portion of the FCC's upcoming incentive auction of TV broadcasters' 600 MHz spectrum. But don't expect the cable company to walk away with a haul of new spectrum licenses.
Top U.S. Cellular executives said that the company currently has enough spectrum and resources to meet its customers' demands for mobile connections. However, company executives said at an investor event that the company might purchase some spectrum in the FCC's upcoming incentive auction of TV broadcasters' 600 MHz spectrum.
The financial analysts at Wells Fargo predicted that AT&T will outspend its rivals on licenses during the FCC's incentive auction next year of TV broadcasters' 600 MHz spectrum, dropping up to $10 billion on a 2x10 MHz block of spectrum with nationwide capability. The analysts predict T-Mobile will come in second with bids of up to $8 billion, while Verizon will clock in last among the nation's largest wireless carriers with a total of $5 billion in bids.
T-Mobile US is asking the FCC to prevent Verizon from bidding on reserved spectrum in a dozen markets across the United States. The action again underscores the behind-the-scenes clashes between the nation's biggest wireless carriers as they work to improve their position going into next year's 600 MHz incentive auction of TV broadcasters' unwanted spectrum.
What are the nation's TV broadcasters going to do after they give up some of their spectrum to wireless carriers in the FCC's upcoming incentive auction? Why, they might compete directly with those very same carriers, of course. At least, that's how the market may shake out if the nation's TV broadcasters adopt the new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard in the coming years.
Executives from major U.S. TV broadcasters like Sinclair Broadcast Group, CBS and Gray Television said their respective companies will likely participate in the FCC's upcoming incentive auction of TV broadcasters' 600 MHz spectrum-- to varying degrees. And executives from other publicly held TV broadcasting companies said they will take a wait-and-see approach to the event.
Comcast executives said the company's NBCUniversal unit will "likely" give up spectrum to the FCC as part of the agency's incentive auction of TV broadcasters' 600 MHz spectrum. However, Comcast Cable chief Neil Smit said the company hasn't yet decided whether it will participate as a bidder in the auction in order to purchase spectrum.
Despite Sprint's announcement that it will not participate in the FCC's planned incentive auction of TV broadcasters' 600 MHz spectrum next year, analysts still expect the event to generate as much as $60 billion in total bids. That amount would make the auction by far the government's most successful spectrum auction ever in terms of total money raised. However, some analysts are predicting that average spectrum license prices might be lower in next year's auction than this year's AWS-3 auction due to the FCC's tightened bidding rules, the 30 MHz spectrum reserve, and wireless carriers' tightening balance sheets.
T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter said the carrier might have as much as $10 billion it could spend on spectrum during the FCC's incentive auction of 600 MHz spectrum next year. However, he said that he doesn't think T-Mobile will need to spend that much to obtain the spectrum it wants.