Auction for MVDDS service set for Jan. 14

January 5, 2004

Auction No. 53 will offer 214 licenses in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band (one license in each of 210 Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) and four FCC-defined DMA-like service areas). Each license will consist of one 500-megahertz block of unpaired spectrum.

The question is, what will the successful bidder do with the spectrum?

It could be used for another multichannel pay television service transmitted from ground-based microwave transmitters. It could also be used exclusively for data services, such as wireless Internet access for businesses. Or it could be something totally different.

The auction will be closely watched because some major names in television are participants among the pre-registered bidders. They include Charlie Ergen, founder of Echostar Communications, a man under intense scrutiny as he plans to do battle this year with Rupert Murdoch’s newly acquired DirecTV. Another contender in the bidding is George S. Blumenthal, a major cable entrepreneur in the United Kingdom.

None of the potential bidders have announced what they will do with the spectrum should they win the bidding. Missing from the list of bidders is the company whose name is most associated with the spectrum, Northpoint Technology. Northpoint, who originated the MVDDS spectrum proposal with the FCC, has contended it should be awarded the spectrum for free. Several recent decisions, in courtrooms and Congress, make that unlikely to ever happen.

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