AWS-3 auction bids now top $38.4B, as bidding churns on

Participants in the FCC's AWS-3 spectrum auction resumed bidding after taking a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, and the auction has now topped $38.4 billion in total provisional winning bids.

Although bidding activity seemed to be slowing down, it has picked up in the last round, round 38. In round 37, which was conducted on Nov. 26, there were 127 new bids, according to Broadcasting & Cable. In round 38 there were 292 new bids, with aggregate provisional winning bid amounts increasing by $267.66 million. In total, there has been $38.46 billion in total provisional winning bids through round 38. When there are no more new bids or waivers in a single round, the auction will end.

Most of the bidding continues to be concentrated on the paired spectrum in the auction, 1755-1780 MHz for uplink operations and 2155-2180 MHz for downlink, but for 5x5 MHz blocks within those bands. There is also continued bidding on the unpaired uplink 1695-1710 MHz band.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) are expected to walk away with chunks--perhaps 10x10 MHz each--of the paired spectrum but are also expected to have paid significant amounts of money, especially for licenses covering the largest metropolitan areas. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and smaller carriers are also likely to win smaller licenses. Analysts have said they expect Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) to have bid up the prices, in part to enhance the value of its existing mid-band spectrum holdings, though it's impossible to tell since bidding is confidential.

However, some clues can be gleaned as to what state the bidding is in now. For example, the 10x10 MHz paired J-Block covering the New York City and Long Island metropolitan areas, which has consistently been the most attractive license, received no new bids in round 38, with the current provisional winning bid at $2.46 billion. That may indicate that the entity holding the license will not face continued competition for the license. The J-Block license covering the Los Angeles metropolitan area also received no new bids in round 38 and has received no new bids since round 34; its current provisional winning bid is $1.96 billion.

The AWS-3 auction will almost certainly wind up as the FCC's most successful in terms of total winning bids. However, all of the bids are still provisional and will be so even once the auction closes.

As Broadcasting & Cable notes, there is a down-payment deadline after the FCC issues a public notice announcing the close of the auction, which will be Jan. 7 or 10 days after the auction ends, whichever is later. That down payment, along with an upfront payment bidders made before the auction started, will combine to form 20 percent of the winning bid prices. Winning bidders will need to file a long-form application for the licenses within 10 days after the end of the auction. The FCC will then review those applications, issue a public notice on the review and allow the public to file petitions challenging the auction.

For more:
- see this FCC site
- see this Broadcasting&Cable article

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

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