Bidders in the FCC's forward auction spent vastly different amounts per license

spectrum (Pixabay)
With their new licenses in hand, AT&T, T-Mobile and other providers have new 600 MHz spectrum to bring to market. But they didn't pay equivalent amounts for it.

With the FCC's forward incentive auction now complete, providers who won licenses have differing amounts of new 600 MHz spectrum to bring to market. But the amount providers paid for those licenses varied wildly, with some companies paying more than 10 times as much per license as other companies in certain cases.

Big providers like AT&T and T-Mobile generally paid the most, as these companies had no bidding credits to lighten the cost. But that doesn't tell the full story, as AT&T spend almost eight times as much as T-Mobile spent per license even as the latter took home a whopping 1,525 new licenses. AT&T, meanwhile, obtained just 23.

For small providers, here defined as those pulling in under $55 million in revenue, the results were similarly uneven. Channel 51 paid far and away the most for each of its eight new licenses, while Omega Wireless, with 119 new licenses, got away paying under $1 million for each one.

Of course, the playing field in this case was somewhat skewed, as small providers got a scaling credit depending on their revenue size:

The FCC's goal in providing bidding credits, however, wasn't just to give small businesses a helping hand—it was also to increase coverage for rural areas.

"The bidding credit to rural service providers will incentivize participation in future spectrum auctions, help rural carriers to compete more effectively for spectrum and provide consumers in rural areas with competitive offerings, especially in underserved areas," the FCC wrote in a fact sheet (PDF) on the auction.

Accordingly, the FCC also provided a 15% bidding credit for all rural providers participating in the auction: