US spectrum auction raises more than €12.1bn

Bidding has closed on a record-setting US airwave auction with the total amount pledged reaching nearly €12.1 billion/US$19.6 billion, an Associated Press report said.

Enthusiasm was tempered though by doubts concerning the future of a proposed emergency comms network.

The total was the most since 1994 when the Federal Communications Commission began using auctions as a way to decide who should be granted rights to use portions of the publicly owned airwaves. About one-sixth of the spectrum at auction was dedicated to the creation of a nationwide, emergency comms network for first responders, but the so-called D block did not attract the minimum bid required by FCC auction rules, the report said.

The regulator must now decide how to alter the conditions attached to the block to make it more attractive to bidders in a second auction while maintaining its purpose as a resource for emergency responders.

The Congressional Budget Office predicted the auction would raise between €6.37 billion/US$10 billion and €9.56 billion/US$15 billion. The airwaves are currently being used by TV broadcasters who must vacate the spectrum by February 18, 2009.