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May 03, 2016

FCC: Television Broadcasters Taking New Interest in Spectrum Auction

Spectrum auctions can be a very big deal, for a wide array of businesses. Mobile providers often look toward spectrum auctions as a means to buy space for new mobile bandwidth. Television companies look to spectrum as a means to get more room for broadcast media. Though that's fallen off somewhat in an era of easily-accessed satellite TV and a plethora of online sources, a new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that television broadcasters are getting back into the fray.

The FCC noted a “strong” interest from television broadcasters, and announced it was out to clear 126 MHz of spectrum for availability. It's drawing on low-frequency spectrum that television broadcasters had earlier surrendered to wireless companies and the like who wanted to build new wireless access. The FCC had considered several blocks of access, ranging from the earlier-noted 126 MHz to 42 MHz, but decided on the highest target on the strength of several binding commitment letters.

The spectrum up for auction isn't related to any currently-operating spectrum, and is being offered nationwide, so those who pick it up should have a good pipeline to wide-ranging access. Though there is major demand from broadcast television, wireless companies are interested in a bid to offer better access for customers, who are continually demanding new bandwidth. Reports suggest that the auction could represent between $15 billion and $45 billion, so it's clear why it's being undertaken to begin with.

So far, at least three of the major wireless firms in the United States—Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, with Sprint not listed—as well as a set of pay-TV operators like Comcast and Dish Network, are all in on the action, though the FCC wasn't talking about which TV broadcasters will be involved. A report from S&P Global Market Intelligence suggests that CBS Corporation could see substantial benefit from engaging in such a deal, and so could companies like Tribune Media, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and others.

With broadcasters and wireless companies alike eager to get in on this spectrum auction, it's easy to see where this could end up as a high-dollar affair; the demands for bandwidth from mobile wireless users won't stop until the day arrives where mobile data is unlimited for all users. With an increasing number of uses for mobile bandwidth—video conferencing, cloud-based initiatives, the various demands of the Internet of Things (IoT) and more—demand must carry on, and businesses need the infrastructure to provide it.

The upcoming FCC auction will likely do brisk business as companies push for new spectrum, but just who will end up with it, that's a point that could shake up a lot of the market as we know it. That makes this auction one to watch.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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