AWS-3 auction inches on, with bids passing $43.7B

The FCC's AWS-3 spectrum auction is crawling along toward its conclusion, with total provisional winning bids now topping $43.7 billion. There are also signs that the auction will end shortly.

At the close of round 92 this morning, the total provisional winning bid amount came in at $43.764 billion. However, the round only brought in $20.49 million, or 0.05 percent, in new bids. There were just 49 new bids in the round. The auction will continue until there are no new bids or waivers in a given round.

In contrast, less than a week ago there were 155 new bids in round 68 and the total provisional winning bid amount increased by 0.60 percent.

According to analysts at Jefferies, after 91 rounds, the paired spectrum in the AWS-3 auction was at $2.65 per MHz-POP and unpaired spectrum at 50 cents per MHz-POP.

Throughout the auction, the vast majority of the bidding has taken place over different blocks of paired spectrum (1755-1780 MHz for uplink operations and 2155-2180 MHz for downlink), especially in major markets. The bidding for the unpaired uplink spectrum (1695-1710 MHz) has been much less intense.

The Jefferies analysts noted that through round 91 the increase in prices continued to slow down, with only a 5 percent week-over-week increase in the average paired spectrum price. "Bidding activity is focused in several Tier 2 and 3 cities, particularly within the relatively cheaper G-Block licenses," they noted.

The G-Block refers to a 5x5 MHz block of paired spectrum running from 155-1760 MHz and 2155-2160 MHz. Indeed, in round 92 the highest provisional winning bid was for a G-Block license covering San Antonio, Texas, at $73.6 million. However, that is just a fraction of what is being bid for the 10x10 MHz J-Block license covering New York City and Long Island, which garnered a provisional winning bid of $2.76 billion--which hasn't changed since round 64.

Although all of the bids are still provisional, the apparent blockbuster success of the AWS-3 auction takes pressure off the FCC to make the incentive auction of 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum a smashing financial success. However, that auction, currently scheduled to start in early 2016, is far more complex and will require participation from broadcasters to give up their spectrum.

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

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

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