The incentive spectrum auction which is set for January 2016, is probably the most talked about spectrum auction in quite some time. And there's a couple of reasons for that. The big one being that this will be the last auction for low-band spectrum for about a decade. Low-band spectrum is like gold to carriers, simply because it can cover more space, and it can penetrate walls better than higher-band spectrum, like the 1700 or 1900MHz bands. Sprint has decided to sit out already, citing that they have enough spectrum. In actuality, they do. They have the most spectrum of the four carriers. Verizon has decided to attend the auction, but they are not looking to pick up a lot of 600MHz spectrum, as they are more interested in higher-band spectrum, like AWS. AT&T's CFO John Stephens confirmed today that the company will be at the auction and bidding. Hoping to get a nationwide block of 2x10MHz.
Stephens, was speaking at the Morgan Stanley European Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today, which is taking place in Barcelona, Spain. Stephens stated that at recent auctions, buying spectrum "has served us well". Also adding that "spectrum is a scare asset, and so we would expect to participate." Now while Stephens did state that they would be participating in the auction, he didn't state at what level, or how much the company would be willing to spend. Of course, that wouldn't be a good idea anyways, with T-Mobile waiting to grab a ton of 600MHz spectrum in this auction. Stephens also stated that getting a nationwide 2×10 capability would work very well with their network plans and team.
Analysts are expecting that this auction is going to bring in around $60 billion for the FCC, in which AT&T exec's have said a few times that it's unrealistic. Especially with Sprint sitting out now. And Verizon not that interested in the 600MHz spectrum, at least from what their exec's have been stating. Of course, Dish Network will likely be there, as Charlie Ergen has been collecting quite a bit of spectrum over the last few years at these various auctions. But have yet to do anything with them.
The spectrum auction that's set for January is getting very interesting. We'll have to wait and see how it all shakes out. But it could very well determine whether we have four carriers in the next ten years, or if we are down to 2 or 3.