The Incentive Auction, where the FCC will auction off the 600MHz spectrum to carriers (and about 90 other companies looking to buy some spectrum) later this year has actually already started. The auction started in March, where the FCC worked with broadcasters to clear some of that 600MHz spectrum that it can then auction off to the carriers. The actual auction where the carriers will be bidding on this spectrum won't take place for another few months. But today, the FCC has announced how much spectrum it was able to clear.
In 2015, the FCC said that it wanted to clear a range from 42MHz to 126MHz of spectrum for the auction. However it appears that the FCC was able to hit the high-end of that figure, with 126MHz cleared. What this means is that there will be 100MHz or 10 paired blocks of licensed spectrum that will be offered. And that's nearly nationwide. Making it a big deal for anyone looking for low-band spectrum – specifically T-Mobile.
The commission's chairman, Tom Wheeler quoted that "Robust broadcaster participation is key to the success of the incentive auction. Today's announcement reflects the voluntary decision by many broadcasters that this auction truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." He went on to talk about how being able to clear this much spectrum means that carriers will be able to buy the maximum amount of low-band spectrum during the forward-auction. Wheeler also touched on how this auction is going to help usher in 5G, which we expect to see take off in the next few years.
The reverse auction is starting up on May 31st for the broadcasters. The FCC notes that it could take up to a full month for the reverse auction to finish up. After that it'll be the forward auction where the carriers will be bidding on the spectrum. While we'll likely know the results of the auction later this year, it's going to be another few years before the carriers actually start rolling it out. As the spectrum needs to finish being cleared, then the licenses sent over to the new owners, and finally the carriers can start integrating it into their network. These things take time, and we're no where close to being done. But it is exciting to see that the auction is full steam ahead.