The FCC's incentive auction of spectrum from radio and cable providers which began its initial reverse phase on May 31 of last year has finally reached the goal amount that was settled upon in the reverse auction. The FCC confirmed the auction will be ending following the current stage. In stage four of the forward auction, the amount left to meet the goal was $10 billion, and bidders ended up far exceeding that amount, putting $18 billion on the table for the spectrum that had not already been scooped up in the first three stages of the forward auction. Stage four was in its third round of bidding yesterday and ended at 4:00 PM EST. This is the end of the long and storied saga of one of the largest spectrum auctions in the history of mobile telephony.
For the forward auction to come to an end, the goal amount had to be met and the spectrum price had to rise above $1.25 per megahertz. The price that it reached before the end of the round was $1.257 per megahertz in the top 40 markets that spectrum was pulled from for the auction. Following the conclusion of the fourth stage, the auction moved into an assignment stage. During the forward stage, bidders obtained 10-megahertz blocks of spectrum in uniform blocks across markets. However, during the upcoming assignment auction, bidders will be able to select specific bits of spectrum that they want in certain markets, allowing them to patch up holes in their networks in key markets.
According to the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the auction has served its purpose, allotting spectrum to help build out LTE and 5G networks as consumer demand began to shift away from traditional cable and radio where the spectrum blocks on auction were pulled from. The auction wound up falling far short of its lofty initial goal as broadcasters originally wanted around $86.4 billion in total for the spectrum that the FCC had asked them to give up. With each stage of bidding, the amount of spectrum on offer and the total asking price for it fell, leaving us where we are now.