The FCC's incentive auction of spectrum throughout the 600 megahertz block is nearly at its end, having met the Final Stage Rule, and the FCC has increased the number of rounds per day during the bidding period in order to attract a wider and more diverse crowd of last-minute bidders. The auction has already licensed out 70 megahertz of the 84 megahertz target, and the total amount of bidding has gone well over the $19 billion mark at this point. February 7th has four rounds, each lasting one hour, while all the days to follow will have six rounds per day, each lasting 40 minutes. Since the Final Stage Rule has been met, the bidding over this final 14 megahertz or so worth of spectrum will take place in a much more fast and loose fashion than the way the auction has proceeded thus far, and could end at any time, based on a number of factors.
The bidding on February 7th is set to end at 5:00 PM Eastern Time, one hour from the start of the day's final round. Bidding will pick back up on February 8th at 10 AM, and will end at 4:40 PM. February 9th and 10th will follow the same time frames, and that's as far out as the FCC has written the schedule. While the currently written schedule ends there, the auction could end well before then, or could continue past that point. Whenever this final stage of the auction ends, the proceedings will go into the Assignment Phase, where the FCC and bidders will work together to determine what markets and frequencies each bidder should be entitled to, based on when they put in their bids, their reason for bidding, and how much spectrum they managed to net.
This auction has been hailed as a game changer for the wireless industry, and is indeed one of the largest spectrum auctions in the FCC's history. Major players in wireless and related industries jumped on the spectrum that had long been held by radio and cable entities, as its low-band nature meant that it would be easy to build out, and would provide incredible LTE signal penetration, capacity, and speeds. Some wireless carriers have even talked about farming this spectrum out for their nascent 5G efforts. Plans, dreams, and announcements are on the horizon, but only time will tell how this auction will affect the wireless landscape at large as the 3G era comes to a close and LTE marches toward obsolescence.