Dell's OTA Pitches Post-Auction Spectrum Sales

The idea is to get out before the repack February 8, 2017
WASHINGTON—OTA Broadcasting wants to be able to sell stations to wireless providers in a post-auction aftermarket. OTA specifically wants to the Federal Communications Commission to release its TV channel repacking data as soon as possible to see what stations that did not sell in the auction would be in the way of a timely repack. 

“Free-market forces also can be harnessed to simply eliminate some stations that present a bottleneck or that constitute part of a linked station set” OTA said in informal comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission. (Click on the image below to bring the filing up in a separate window.)

OTA did not mention its own intent to sell, but the Fairfax, Va.-based subsidiary of Michael Dell’s investment firm, MSD Capital, was identified as a seller that stood to make $4 billion its $80 million TV portfolio, according to a Jan. 13, 2016 article in The Wall Street Journal.

However, the $4 billion was based on opening bids set by the FCC that would have generated about $40 billion in revenues, while the auction is topping out at less than half of that amount. Also, a broadcaster’s participation did not guarantee the sale.

OTA said an aftermarket would expedite wireless provider access to spectrum they won at auction, and give those broadcasters who failed to sell spectrum at auction another chance, as well as giving channel-sharers an incentive to vacate spectrum before they complete construction on new facilities.

“Using the flexibility provided by the commission for temporary channel sharing, free market forces can be used to induce broadcast stations voluntarily to vacate channels in the new wireless band even before their new permanent facilities have been constructed,” the filing said.

At the 84 MHz to be cleared to make way for wireless broadband, a total of 1,274 stations will have to move to new channel assignments, according to the Sept. 30, 2016 Post-Incentive Auction Transition Scheduling Plan Public Notice, which also outlines the timeline and procedure of the repack. Of those 1,274 stations, 710 are “linked” to others in a sort of interference daisy-chain, thus moves must be coordinated among those linked stations.

The National Association of Broadcasters said the mandated 39-month move window was not enough time to repack 1,274 stations, particularly when more than half are tangled up with neighboring stations. OTA said an aftermarket will help move things along.

OTA owns KAXT and KTLN in San Francisco, KVOS in Seattle, WYNC in Boston, WEPA in Pittsburgh, WTBL in Lenoir, N.C.; W2ICK in Charlotte, N.C.; WEBR in New York; KUGB in Houston; KPSE and KMIR in Palm Springs, Calif.; and W24BB in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa.

For more TV Technology coverage, see our spectrum auction silo.

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