Bidding tops $11B in FCC's incentive auction of 600 MHz spectrum, interest turns to small markets

The incentive auction slogged on this morning as bidders offered up more than $400,000 in total bids during the event’s sixth round, pushing the total proceeds past $11 billion.

A total of $11,059,842,000 has been bid on the 600 MHz airwaves since the auction opened Tuesday. That’s still a long way from the $88 billion that the auction must raise if it is to be completed in a single stage – if bidders don’t meet that figure, the FCC must reduce the amount of spectrum it will free up and resume bidding with TV broadcasters in the reverse portion of the auction.

Bidders initially focused heavily on major markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. But more recent activity indicates participants have expanded to pursue spectrum in smaller markets.

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The FCC discloses market-by-market bidding activity during the forward auction, but it doesn’t disclose the identity of the bidders. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are all expected to spend billions at auction, while Sprint opted out. Other major bidders include Dish Network and Comcast.

Demand continues to outpace supply in each of the top 40 markets, but these are still early days in an auction likely to last months. Analysts generally agree that the auction is unlikely to generate the minimum amount to cover the costs of the auction and pay TV broadcasters for their spectrum. So the event could take months to complete and may drag into next year if multiple stages are required during which the FCC would go back and forth between broadcasters and bidders.

Two bidding sessions are being held every weekday, although the FCC could increase or decrease that number based on bidding activity.

For more:
- see the FCC’s auction dashboard

Related articles:
First two rounds of forward auction of 600 MHz airwaves draws over $9B in bids
The forward portion of the incentive auction starts tomorrow, and no one knows what to expect
Rama, Sinclair not on final list of bidders for 600 MHz spectrum auction
600 MHz incentive auction primer: Who will bid, when it will happen, how it will work, and how much money it will raise