As bids near record $44.9B, FCC shuts down bidding on paired spectrum in AWS-3 auction

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.

In an announcement late yesterday, the commission said that in round 337 there were no bids or withdrawals for any of the licenses in G, H, I and J Blocks, and that no proactive activity rule waivers were placed in that round. Since the aggregate reserve price has been met, the FCC closed the bidding on those licenses.

The auction will end where there are no more bids or waivers placed on the unpaired spectrum up for auction, the 1695-1710 MHz band.

The paired spectrum in the auction includes the G Block (1755-1760/2155-2160 MHz), H Block (1760-1765/2160-2165 MHz), I Block (1765-1770/2165-2170 MHz), and J Block (1770-1780MHz /2170-2180 MHz). The G Block is licensed in 734 Cellular Market Area (CMA) geographies and the other paired spectrum blocks are licensed in 176 geographically larger Economic Areas (EAs).

The paired spectrum licenses drew by far the largest bids, especially for the 10x10 MHz J Block in major metropolitan areas. The unpaired spectrum is generally seen as less valuable than the paired spectrum, and it is also encumbered by government users that must be moved off the licenses before they can be used.

At the end of round 340, the auction has raised a total of $44.899 billion in aggregate provisional winning bids. There was only one new bid in round 340.

Here is some analytsis on the auction from Stephen Wilkus of Spectrum Finacial Partners.

New Street Research analysts wrote in a research note last week that they think AT&T (NYSE: T) could wind up spending anywhere from $20 billion to $22 billion at the auction, more than Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). That forecast came after AT&T disclosed that it entered into credit agreements worth $11.2 billion. The identities of the bidders, and which spectrum blocks they won during the auction, will remain confidential until after the auction fully closes.

Shortly after bidding in the auction ends, the commission will issue a new public notice declaring the auction has fully closed. The FCC will also identify the winners, and it will establish the deadlines for winning bidders to submit their down payments, their final payments, their long-form applications and their ownership disclosure reports. Currently, it is looking like final payments will be due in mid-to-late February.

For more:
- see this FCC announcement

Special Report: AWS-3 spectrum auction primer: What you need to know

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