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Comcast Confirms Participation in Incentive Spectrum Auction

February 4, 2016 - Written By Alexander Maxham

The upcoming Incentive spectrum auction where the FCC is going to be auctioning off the 600MHz spectrum, is becoming a pretty big deal. And it should. This is the last major auction for spectrum in the next decade. Especially when it comes to the low-band spectrum, this spectrum is important to wireless carriers because it gives them better coverage, and better coverage inside buildings. Verizon has been pretty lukewarm regarding the auction and Sprint has already stated that they will be sitting out this year. But it looks like Comcast will be jumping in this time around.

Cable and Satellite companies are no stranger to the spectrum auctions, as Dish Network has been participating for quite some time and have amassed a pretty decently sized portfolio of spectrum. However, Dish has yet to actually use the spectrum they’ve acquired – which has led Verizon and other carriers to questioning why they are allowed to buy spectrum. During their earnings call this week, Comcast mentioned that they will be filing to join the spectrum auction. Their CFO, Mike Cavanagh also stated that they will only buy the airwave licenses if they “think the price is right after we do our evaluation of what’s available.” Making it sound like the company is being very cautious about what they are doing with this auction.

Analysts are expecting the FCC to raise around $60 billion in the incentive auction. With Sprint and Verizon looking to not join the auction, it was looking a bit doubtful that would happen. However, with Comcast and Dish looking to buy some spectrum – and with the rules for the auction benefitting those without a ton of spectrum – it could lead Comcast to buying more spectrum. These rules were made to keep AT&T and Verizon from dominating the auction. As they already have the majority of the low-band spectrum available in the US. This is also the FCC’s way of keeping competition alive in the wireless industry.

What exactly would Comcast do with the spectrum? Well there’s talk of using it for their WiFi hotspots, but they might also create a cellular network. Although it’s a bit unlikely, without leasing more spectrum from their competitors. But who knows.