Small carriers request pause in incentive auction during conferences next month

Two wireless industry groups representing regional operators is asking the FCC to suspend bidding in the forward auction of 600 MHz spectrum for six days next month.

As Wireless Week reported, the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and the Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) jointly filed an informal request last week urging the Commission to shelve bidding action during two industry conferences in September. The groups want the FCC to suspend bidding while the RWA holds its Rural Wireless Summit during CTIA’s Super Mobility conference from Sept. 7-9, and from Sept. 26-28 during NTCA’s fall conference and the RWA’s annual meeting.

The request underscores the limited resources smaller operators have compared to the four major U.S. wireless carriers. Continuing the bidding process during industry events could put them at a disadvantage against Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, each of which is expected to spend billions for the coveted airwaves.

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As an alternative, the groups asked the FCC to limit bidding to one round per day during those periods.

“The Associations’ members have limited personnel resources to dedicate to auction participation,” the organizations said in their filing. “Small staffs already manage a substantial workload, and auction participation over a lengthy and unpredictable time period will stretch limited personnel resources even further. In many cases, the leaders that attend industry events to conduct their companies’ business are the same individuals named as their companies’ authorized bidders in Auction 1002. The Associations are concerned that travel to and from these events, as well as meeting participation, will disrupt these authorized bidders’ ability to bid in a timely fashion.”

The two organizations said the auction of TV broadcasters’ airwaves is crucial to smaller wireless service providers if they hope to compete against their larger counterparts as mobile data consumption continues to ramp up.

The long-awaited “forward” portion of the incentive auction kicked off this morning, with dozens of participants bidding on TV broadcasters’ airwaves. The event is likely to drag into next year, although it could plausibly wrap up in the next several weeks.

“The Associations’ member companies could lose Auction 1002 eligibility if authorized bidders run into an unexpected technical or communications glitch while traveling, or if unforeseen transportation delays render them unable to access the bidding system at all,” they wrote. “To put it simply, there is simply no room for error for small and rural carriers in Auction 1002.”

For more:
- see this FCC filing
- read this Wireless Week report

Related articles:
The forward portion of the incentive auction starts tomorrow, and no one knows what to expect
Huge $86B clearing cost could lead to extended incentive auction
600 MHz incentive auction primer: Who will bid, when it will happen, how it will work, and how much money it will raise

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